11 tips for surviving the holidays with social anxiety

Social anxiety dulling your Christmas sparkle? Here’s how to make it to the New Year without a hitch.

It’s not uncommon for social anxiety to flare up during the holiday season. Excessive social stimuli is overwhelming, and busy schedules leave very little time for recuperation between festive gatherings. Here’s how to survive this challenging season as smoothly as possible.

1. Spend time alone

The concept of self-care has taken off this past year. The internet is abundant with articles and blogs on how to escape responsibilities and make time for yourself. This season, take advantage of all that information! Remove yourself from people no matter how many errands you have to run or holiday parties you have to attend. At least once a day, find a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle to shake off those anxious feelings and unwind. Trust us – no one will mind.

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2. Avoid crowds

People are unavoidable during the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean you can’t skip the crowds. When it’s time to shop, head to small, local businesses that are less busy. If the mall is unavoidable, avoid hordes of shoppers by going early in the morning, and stick to a list to make your trip as quick as possible. At social gatherings, make your way around the room and chat with friends and family one at a time. Forge through the small talk and try to enjoy the connection you’re able to build with people when you engage with them one-on-one.

3. Practice calming rituals

If you’ve never engaged in calming activities like meditation or yoga, the holidays are a great time to start. If these practices intimidate you, ease into them. Begin by incorporating deep breathing into your daily routine. It doesn’t matter when or where you do it – just commit to taking at least ten deep inhales and exhales every single day. Poor breathing habits contribute to anxiety, so this small effort can work wonders.

Commit to taking at least ten deep inhales and exhales every single day.

4. Help out in the kitchen

Need a social break? If you’re not sure how to escape the party, go help out in the kitchen! While this room might be hectic (especially before dinner), chances are it’ll be much less crowded. Offer to wash the dishes, mash the potatoes, or perform any other mundane task that’ll give you a break from the endless conversation.

5. Say no

Saying no is harder than it sounds – especially during the holiday season. Declining invitations to social events can bring on feelings of guilt. It is, after all, a time of year to spend time with loved ones. But you can’t give anything of yourself if you don’t take time for self-care (there’s that word again!), so don’t be afraid to say no every once in a while. Attend the important events, and forego the rest. You’ll feel better for it, and the interactions you have time for will be much more genuine.

6. Diffuse essential oils

Make your home smell festive while reaping the health benefits of essential oils! Here’s a few classic holiday scents and their effects:

  • Anise – helps the nervous system respond to stress
  • Cedarwood – detoxes the body and soothes the mind
  • Cinnamon – enhances immunity and relieves depression
  • Frankincense – promotes balance
  • Ginger – improves general mood
  • Myrrh – relieves anxiety
  • Peppermint – boosts clarity and energy
  • Sweet orange – releases fatigue and provides vitality

7. Listen to Christmas music

Music has a profound effect on well-being. If you’re feeling anxious, put on a few holiday tunes to instill a sense of calm. Soothing ballads – including Christmas classics like Silent Night and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire – are even more beneficial.

If you’re feeling anxious, put on a few holiday tunes to instill a sense of calm.

8. Eat wisely

It’s no secret that the foods you consume dramatically affect your mental health. This holiday season, avoid inflammatory foodstuff like sugar, alcohol, trans fat and sodium. This might seem like a given, but we all know that sticking to a nutritional plan during Christmas isn’t easy. So be strong, allow yourself a few slip-ups, and – whatever you do –  don’t binge!

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9. Make time for exercise

As most of us know, exercise releases endorphins (happy juices). These endorphins act as natural mood enhancers, which lessen anxiety. The good news is, you don’t have to run a marathon to reap the anxiety lessening benefits of exercise. Leave a bit of time every day to stroll around the block, or move through a sun salutation. Simply getting your blood moving will put you in the right mindset for any social events you’re planning to attend.

10. Don’t forget to smile

Putting on a happy front might not eliminate your anxiety altogether… but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Smiling sends that aforementioned happy juice to your brain, helping you feel a bit less anxious. In turn, the people around you will pick up on your relaxed stature and automatically become more comfortable interacting with you. Their comfort will lessen your discomfort, creating a pleasant social circle.

Putting on a happy front might not eliminate your anxiety altogether… but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

11. Get enough sleep

‘Tis the season for late nights and early mornings. Your schedule will be hectic this time of year, but it’s important to get an adequate amount of shuteye. When you’re tired, you’ll be less equipped to deal with the inevitable bouts of anxiety that will arise throughout the day. Avoid a breakdown by sticking to your bedtime routine as closely as possible. 7-8 hours each night is recommended!

Social anxiety sucks, especially this time of year. But with a little preparation and few tricks up your sleeve, you’ll have no trouble making it through the holidays!

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