5 Christmas tips for Social Anxiety

For those with social anxiety this time of year can bring added levels of stress and worry. From the office parties to the family get-together, anxiety levels are usually very high.

Self-consciousness, shyness and embarrassment are the common experiences of social anxiety. It also brings with it feelings of shame and much of the added stress comes from concealing this from others in order to fit in.

One of the great fears for someone with social anxiety is being put in the spotlight. Therefore sitting around a table in a confined space can be the source of huge stress.  I remember dreading dinner parties and eventually avoided them at all cost.

Another challenging component to social anxiety is the after effect of a social occasion. As someone who has struggled with this type of anxiety in the past I recall how I would obsess about what was said, how I came across and then beat myself up for not being good enough. If it had been a dinner party I’d tell myself that I wasn’t interesting enough and, of course, expect never to be invited again.  These days I’m much more relaxed about situations like these and not so bothered about how I come cross. Over the years I’ve learned to be kind to myself, manage my fears better, to show interest in others and to know that I am welcome.

On the back of my personal experience and my work with clients who struggle with social anxiety here are my 5 tips for surviving the various Christmas events;

  1. Know that you are welcome. Keep telling yourself this even if you don’t believe it. Understand that you are wanted and accepted. It’s sometimes enough for you to just be there and be yourself as much as you can.
  2. Understand that others are also afraid. It always appears that other people are relaxed and confident. Some are but most aren’t. Most people want to be liked and are fearful of rejection.
  3. Know that whatever you feel is a choice. If you don’t feel like joining in – smilingly decline. Stay interested in what is happening around you and allow yourself to say no if you’re really not ready. Saying no doesn’t have to be unfriendly or negative.
  4. Fake it ’till you make it. This sound like a dreadful idea but can be very effective. Imagine yourself however you’d like to be then take on that role. It can allow you to step beyond your comfort zone and discover new ways of being.
  5. Show interest in others. This is a great way to engage with others and make a good impression. Unless they also have social anxiety many people love being given attention, to have that space and to talk about what interests them. If you repeat back what you’ve heard in order to clarify this is even better as there is nothing better than truly being heard and understood.

Overcoming social anxiety can take time but it is possible as I have experienced. The key ingredients for me were; getting interested and curious about my fears instead of running away or covering up, being kind to myself and understanding where these fears come from, allowing others to be confident and relaxed without comparing myself, knowing that I’m welcome, valued and finding ways to move beyond all the self-doubt to know there is nothing wrong with me even if I do feel anxious.

For more information on social anxiety and weekly groups running in London check out – http://www.sashgroup.org

6 thoughts on “5 Christmas tips for Social Anxiety

  1. Thank you for your inspirational words.
    My PTSD was a result of the Asian tsunami and being involved with the initial search and rescue. For years I struggled until I was finally diagnosed properly and stated trauma therapy. Aspect of my treatment focused on social anxiety.

    My life has moved forward since the treatment, it’s not ideal but it’s manageable. There are still bad days but I’m trying to focus on the good.
    I have just started a blog, to share my story and raise awareness of PTSD. In order try to highlight the countless men, women and children who suffer trauma in silence. And, how with greater understanding and early and accurate diagnosis we can genuinely support those that suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    • Hi and thankyou for your message! Yes, it’s amazing how the mind and body deal with trauma – how trauma gets trapped in both – as human beings we haven’t learned how to fully process shocking events – did you have EMDR as part of your treatment? Would love to hear more about what helped you. You might also find an article I wrote recently of interest – http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/the-future-of-anxiety

      I’m of the belief that social anxiety, on the whole, is as a result of trauma – whilst this trauma may be a one off experience of shock like an accident it can also be a as result of low grade and ongoing trauma – such as bullying and abuse. The good news is that there are way of coming out of the cycle of anxiety that trapped trauma can cause.

      It’s great to hear that you are on the mend and also using your experience to help others. Many people struggle with social anxiety for years without realising that they might be dealing with trauma.

  2. Hi Neil, thank you for your supportive message. I received Trauma Focused CBT therapy as part of clinical trial at King’s College London and Oxford University, I’m not sure but from your described it was part of my treatment. I was very fortunate to be treated by international expert. During my treatment, my therapist initially calmed me down, by explaining my reaction to extreme trauma was natural response. She was the first person I felt who understood what I was going through. She helped me write out a narrative of my trauma. Which helped me put things straight in my mind, as I unfairly blamed myself for things out of my control. By being supported to write out my narrative in a fair amount of detail helped me incorporate what I know now into my memories. The trauma still horrific to remember but not intertwined with immense like before.

    At the end of my treatment I participated in a BBC radio documentary on PTSD and it’s treatment. Please have a listen, the BBC iPlayer link is on my blog. Thanks again

  3. By understanding my PTSD was natural reaction to extreme trauma during 2 days of search and rescue, gave me hope. Understand the science of how the brain work gave me strength to push on with the treatment. I wrote out a very detailed trauma narrative, which reduced the symptoms of my PTSD. Also my treatment encouraged me to research into religion and philosophy. It helped crystallise my core beliefs and my reactions to my flashbacks became more logical and calmer, because I had greater inner peace. Please listen to the BBC documentary on PTSD i participated in at the end of my treatment. The links are on my blog – ptsdjedi

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