Christmas season is in full swing, which means people are busy planning and participating in holiday parties with friends, families, and co-workers. Holiday gatherings are great fun for many people, but some people experience severe anxiety at the prospect of having to socialize at these events.
Last week, I examined nine ways to manage anxiety in your everyday life. This week, I want to take a closer look at social events in particular and how to overcome the anxiety they may present.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Those who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder get incredibly nervous when they are required to engage with (or simply be around) other people in a public setting. There are several different reasons a person might develop Social Anxiety Disorder, such as a history of bullying, sexual abuse, or serious family conflict. Their social anxiety typically becomes even more pronounced in two types of situations:
- When they are required to engage with people they do not know well / are not comfortable with.
- When they are required to engage with many people in a group setting.
As a result of their anxiety, individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder often appear withdrawn, distant, unfriendly, and nervous. What many people may not realize is that these individuals often wish to develop strong, lasting friendships with those around them; unfortunately, their anxiety may prevent them from doing so.
Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder manifests a little differently in each unique case, but there are several common physical symptoms that present themselves in many cases. These include:
- Increased Heart Rate
- Difficulty Speaking or Breathing
- Excessive Sweating
Those with Social Anxiety Disorder may also experience one (or several) psychological symptoms, such as constant worrying about an event or public situation – sometimes beginning days in advance. Many of these individuals are intensely afraid of being judged or humiliated in social situations, and may find themselves doing everything they can to avoid these types of situations. In some cases, this may include refusing to go shopping, use a public restroom, or eat in public.
Combating Social Anxiety Disorder During The Holidays
With the large number of Christmas gatherings most people attend during the holidays, it’s easy to see why those with Social Anxiety Disorder face extra challenges this time of year. As a limited licensed psychologist in Michigan, here are a few of the things I recommend to help combat Social Anxiety Disorder during the holidays:
1. Lower Your Number Of Social Gatherings – But Don’t Avoid Them Completely
One of the best ways to overcome your anxiety is to face your challenges slowly, a little bit at a time. If the idea of attending three different gatherings this month stresses you out, choose one to attend and decline the invitations to the other two. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself, but it’s important to give yourself opportunities to practice being in social situations.
2. Avoid Caffeine And Other Stimulants
Did you know that caffeine and sugar consumption may actually increase anxiety? Caffeine and sugar both contain stimulants which can contribute to increased anxiety levels in certain situations. By avoiding these foods, you may be able to stay calmer. Coffee, soda, caffeinated teas, and chocolate are all examples of drinks you should avoid during this season.
3. Get At Least 8 Hours Of Sleep Every Night
If we do not get adequate sleep at night, we may be more likely to feel anxious in certain situations. The problem can sometimes compound itself because severe anxiety can contribute to poorer sleep in the first place. However, scheduling at least eight to nine hours of sleep every night is a great way to start.
4. Seek Mental Help
If not treated, Social Anxiety Disorder can be a debilitating mental condition. Unfortunately, those who show signs of developing this disorder sometimes refuse to seek the help they need, convincing themselves that their behavior is silly and that they should be able to overcome it on their own. The important thing to remember is that there is absolutely no shame in experiencing mental or emotional anxiety. Almost everyone will experience some degree of anxiety at some point in their lives.