Social Anxiety over the Festive Season.

Social Anxiety over the Festive Season
Photo by @timmossholder
Every year I find myself using a little anecdote: as of October 25th I'm super excited about the festive season but by November 25th I'm absolutely dreading it; social anxiety often means I end up fearing the whole shebang. My worst Christmases have involved long anxiety breaks from my family's festivities and I even spent a New Years Eve entirely alone while my family and friends had a huge celebration three rooms away.

What do I find difficult? Well, I'm a very introverted individual and the festive season inherently involves more time surrounded by people than I'm comfortable with. Gift giving and receiving sends my anxiety through the roof because spotlight attention and false pretences make me unbearably uncomfortable to the extent that I usually end up opening my gifts alone and thank people when the whole palaver is over. My family Christmases are often a large affair with 15+ people; I find socialising in large groups very difficult, tend to feel like I shouldn't be there, then swan off into my own little world. Of course, everything is made more difficult by the expectation that one is supposed to feel jovial while doing all of the above.

You'll notice that most of my concerns involve feeling uncomfortable in festive situations. Thankfully over the last few years, I've found ways to make Christmas Day more bearable, so here are the most effective ways that I deal with social anxiety over the festive season.

Take the Pressure off.

Instead of subscribing to the narrative that Christmas is supposed to be this super amazing day, try to think of it as a normal day where you get to do fun things. You don't have to feel happy, it's OK to be anxious. Heck, it's fine if your anxiety means you need a break from it all. Let your instincts guide you, take 20 minutes to yourself if you need it. Rest and recharge. Try to make that alone time something you want to do instead of your anxiety making you do it.

Find Ways to Help.

I find it a lot easier to be around a lot of people if I have a reason to be there. If your Christmas is anything like mine then the kitchen will be the hub of the day. Helping out with the Christmas meal gives you a purpose to be right in the thick of it - you can dip into and out of conversations without feeling like a lemon or simply be there without having to converse at all. For me, it's an easy way in and makes me feel part of the group.

Stake Out Your Spot.

Akin to my advice about making friends at university I find it a lot easier to talk to people if they come to me. Over the festive season, I like to stake out my own spot in the house (usually in the living room) and stick to it. I'll get on with something on my own, a jigsaw for instance, and more often than not others will come and join me meaning I've created a smaller social situation that I'm more comfortable with.

I know many people find it tough at this time of year, but I hope that these practical ideas will help you cope with social anxiety over the festive season. Do you have any tips to add to my list?

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