Tips For Managing Social Anxiety During the Festive Season
We’re coming up to that time of year where there’s many parties and get togethers whether it be at work, family, friends or other groups. There can be an expectation that chatting and socialising is all fun and cheery. But for those of us who are socially anxious, we can really dread these events.
After two years of lockdowns and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 has signified a return to relative normalcy when it comes to social gatherings. Whilst it’s been joyful to have the opportunity to reconnect with others, the return of social events has also brought on challenges for some living with social anxiety. The good news is, the more practice you have interacting with others, the more confident you will feel in social situations.
Here are some tips on managing social anxiety in the lead up, during, and after these social events.
Manage your anxiety in helpful ways before the event
When you’re consumed with worries before a gathering like “What if I say the wrong thing?” “People will think I’m a nervous wreck if they see me blush”, or “I can’t hold a conversation”, you’ll become more anxious and apprehensive. Use slow breathing to calm your body, clear your mind and focus on the people or things at the party you are looking forward to. You can also remind yourself of times in the past when you enjoyed social events more than you thought you would. Think of times when your fears didn’t come true and if they did, perhaps it wasn’t as bad as you thought.
Try to engage with others more fully
When you focus on what is happening around you and participate in conversations and activities, you are more likely to enjoy them. People with social anxiety can hide behind other people or things to help get them through an event. You might stick with someone you know and let them carry the conversation in a group, appear “busy” with food, your phone or other tasks, stand somewhere tucked away, make unnecessary bathroom visits or drink too much alcohol. While these things may help you feel better in the short term, these ‘safety behaviours’ don’t give you the opportunity to interact properly and learn that you might not need them to cope or have a good time.
Resist the temptation afterward to go over everything you did or said
When are the prime times for replaying what just happened, like how you came across, what you did or said, or how others reacted to you? It’s often on the way home or when you’re trying to get to sleep that night. Chances are when you do this, you’re focusing on all the things you think you did or said that were wrong, embarrassing, or wish you could take back. If you find yourself doing this, try to not engage with these kinds of unhelpful thoughts. Instead, be kind to yourself. Shift your attention onto something else or think about the positive things you did during that social event.
If you would like to learn practical tools to help you manage your social anxiety during the festive season (and beyond), take a look at our Social Anxiety Program.
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