Isolation is a big problem for people with social anxiety. So is the social aspect of holidays. But there are ways to stand out from the crowd and avoid stress during the holidays.
Find the gift that will give you meaning
No one really likes giving gifts to people, including yourself. A common concern for people with social anxiety is the fact that people tend to be in groups at parties. If you have limited company at a holiday party, try to look for activities that are both relaxing and fun. For instance, you might enjoy making miniature models of your friends so you can poke fun at them later. Or try scavenger hunts where you and your friends run through the hallways to find clues about hidden games. When you find one, you can work with the group to decide on a reward and head off to get a drink or eat in a safe environment. If you take that same approach to activities with your close friends or family, then you will quickly see that everyone loves that friendly competition and you won’t spend a lot of time alone.
Pause, take a breath and breathe deeply
Your instinct may be to get up to go to the bathroom or go outside to get fresh air while at a party. But the truth is that this is a great way to avoid having to socialize for long periods of time. In fact, if you skip out on a moment of solitude, you may end up feeling more anxious. Try to pause and take a few deep breaths before heading out. It will feel like you are taking time off when you really are. Deep breaths allow your brain to relax and to break the habit of thinking. The fact that you aren’t checking your watch and running to get up to go to the bathroom will make you feel more relaxed.
Find a place where you can be alone
Whatever you do, make sure to find a safe place where you can be alone. Maybe you can find a location that is away from the Christmas lights and decorations. Or you might choose a quiet part of the house or the hall where no one can hear you. Or you might choose to meet someone else. If you can’t find a safe place to be alone, try to listen to what people have to say without interrupting.
Take a break
You are probably not going to get your social life back the week after the holidays. Unless you become quite obsessive about hiding in your room, you are likely going to feel a little insecure and a little bad around the people you actually do socialize with. So take some time for yourself every now and then. You’ll feel better in the morning and better for the rest of the day. It will also give you a chance to see who you are around and a chance to tell people you’re in therapy and to let them know you’re on a social break. You might even end up learning a thing or two from the experience.