How to Survive the Holidays When You Have Social Anxiety

Social anxiety doesn’t have to put a damper on your wintertime fun. Here are eight ways to navigate social anxiety during the holidays.

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The to-do lists are long, the calendar is full, and to make things even more challenging, like 15 million other American adults, you have social anxiety also called social phobia.

Social anxiety occurs when people worry about what other people are thinking about them or what’s going to happen next in social situations, says Emily Newberry, LPC, of Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health in Macon, Georgia.

“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,” says Newberry. Social anxiety may also be a feeling of anxiousness or fearfulness in a social setting. And if your anxiety is severe, it may start to interfere with your regular daily routines, occupational performance, friendships, and sleep.

Social anxiety affects everyone a little differently, but there are a few common signs.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms below, you may have social anxiety.

  • You feel anxious when having to be around new people  
  • You feel self-conscious in front of people and worry about feeling criticized, rejected, or teased
  • You avoid places that will have a lot of people   
  • You worry for days or weeks about an event you have coming up
  • You feel insecure or out of place when you’re in social settings
  • It’s difficult to make new friends or maintain current friendships
  • You begin to blush, sweat, tremble, or feel nauseous when you’re around other people  
  • You experience fear, nervousness, or a racing heart beat in social situations

Related: What You Need to Know About Anxiety

8 Ways to Relieve Social Anxiety at Holiday Parties

Are parties, social gatherings, and family celebrations in your future this holiday season? Newberry’s biggest piece of advice: get out there. Skipping the party and staying home is even more isolating and may dredge up more negative emotions.

These techniques can help you navigate social celebrations this holiday season:  

1. Be an Observer

If you're afraid or anxious when you get to an event, you can be an active observer, says Newberry. “Just take it as an opportunity to people watch because it can alleviate some of the stress. When you see people acting silly or doing funny things, it can actually decrease your own anxiety.”

Related: 5 Ways to Stop Holiday Stress

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