Tips for managing social anxiety during the holidays

Let’s talk about managing social anxiety.

Imagine this scenario:

You’re at some sort of social gathering, talking to someone you barely know, when you literally can’t think of anything to say next.

You frantically try to wrack your brain for anything you have in common – anything semi-interesting to say. To make matters worse, you look around to see everyone else in absorbing conversations, laughing and having a merry ole’ time.

Unfortunately, I’ve experienced this plenty of times. And in these moments, my first thought is usually, “What’s wrong with me? Why is everyone else so dang charismatic?”

Shortly followed by, “Ugh, I just want to go home.”

Social Anxiety Mug
I don’t know about you, but this mug speaks volumes to me.

As much as I want to be a social butterfly, I’m an introvert at heart. It takes real effort for me to attend social events, especially when I don’t know anyone there really well (or anyone at all, in some cases).

Oftentimes either 1 of 2 things happens. 1) I think about attending an event but then don’t or 2) I just throw myself out there and hope I don’t make a complete fool of myself.

(As someone who’s put their foot in their mouth 1,000+ times, this is a legitimate concern haha).

During the holiday season when social events abound, there are even more of these social anxiety-inducing situations.

Earlier this week I stumbled across an article on social anxiety. Although I knew that it can be a diagnosable condition (and apparently 15 million Americans have it, too – though I suspect many do to a point), I found it helpful just relating to the things the article said.

“It’s about the perception that you’re ‘performing’ for others. You have a fear that you’ll be judged for your looks or behavior.”

– Emily Newberry, Licensed Professional Counselor, of Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health in Macon, GA

So, are there ways to get rid of these feelings? To let loose and be yourself without downing a few cups of spiked eggnog first?

Here are my favorite tips!

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Tips for Managing Social Anxiety

Just go!

Ever agreed to attend an event and then regretted it when the time came to step out the front door? I feel this way ALL. THE. TIME.

But what also usually happens is me getting there and having a great time. In the end, I’m always happy I went out.

Getting out the door is the hardest step.

It’s kind of like with exercise. You may not feel like working out or leaving the comfort of your own home. But once you’re there – and especially once that workout’s done – you’re so happy you did it.

So stop second-guessing. A lot of managing social anxiety – or any anxiety for that matter – is trying not to anticipate the future. Just go!

Study up!

My boyfriend often amazes me with his conversation skills. If we go out with other people, he legit always has something thoughtful to say.

While I wouldn’t quite say I’m studying him haha, I would say I’ve learned a bit about how to ask engaging follow-up questions.

Try out some people-watching and observe those who are adept at creating those flowing conversations. It may give you some ideas to use yourself.

When it comes to managing social anxiety, you may find it really helps to have a few conversation tricks up your sleeve!

Practice makes perfect!

Back in high school, I would volunteer in a hospital during the summer. The first day I shadowed in the ER I almost passed out. I’m not proud of it haha, but I was quite unprepared for the blood and Things-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named I saw that day.

After that, I was very worried I would have that woozy reaction again. And since I was studying to be a nurse, that was – really, truly – NOT okay. I couldn’t be putting an IV into someone’s arm and start to get faint!

What I thankfully learned is that the more you’re exposed to something, the more comfortable you get with it.

I mean, isn’t it in our biological nature as well? Evolution and adaptation and what-not? The more we encounter something, the more we adapt!

I realized in my college clinicals and as a new nurse that I was going to be just fine. I was regularly exposed to blood and wounds and needles and pretty soon I was numbed to it.

This also applied to social situations back in college when I was in a sorority.

After recruitment – my literal nightmare, in which you’d talk to hundreds of girls you’d never met before – I’d feel like a social pro. Seriously, I felt like I could enter any conversation with anyone and have something engaging to talk about.

So yes, practice makes…well maybe not perfect, but definitely more adept and confident.

The more you put yourself out there, the easier it will become. I promise!

Step away!

If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, it’s absolutely okay to step away for a few minutes. Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom (just maybe don’t do this too often or people may think you have some other unfortunate emergency going on).

You can also slip away to get a breath of fresh air if that’s an option. Wherever you escape to, take a few deep breaths and make a moment for mindfulness. Acknowledge your feelings and emotions and what’s making you feel that way.

Remember, social events – especially during the holidays – are supposed to be fun!

Try your best to relax, not take yourself too seriously, and enjoy the rest of your time there.

Taking a few minutes to regroup can help you shift your mindset!

While the holidays can be fun, they of course can also be filled with stressors. Do you struggle with managing social anxiety? What types of situations throw your stress into overdrive, and what do you do to combat it? Share in the comments below!