The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be stressful for everyone, but for those with social anxiety disorder, social pressures and obligations can become overwhelming. Here are a few strategies that may help you cope better with your anxiety during the holidays.
Get a Proper Diagnosis and Appropriate Treatment
Coping strategies alone are not enough to manage social anxiety disorder; it is important to get proper treatment. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms. It’s a great time to take stock of anything that may be causing concern. Make a promise to yourself to get help.
Be Fastidious about the Social Engagements that You Attend
It is okay to gracefully bow out from some of your invites. You don’t need to feel obliged to attend every event or to accept invitations from people whose company you do not enjoy. However, it is important to get out and participate in some activities. Avoiding social contact altogether is a recipe for becoming even more anxious.
Keep up your Energy and Reduce Stressors
Maintain a regular exercise routine throughout the holidays. The endorphins released during exercise can have a calming effect on anxiety. Ensure you are eating healthy foods and seek a nutritionist if needed. Make sure to get enough sleep and avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.
Use Coping Techniques When Anxiety Builds
The holidays are a time of year when all emotions become magnified. Anxiety is no exception. A few ways to manage anxiety during times of stress are practicing deep breathing techniques and learning mindfulness.
Before attending parties or gatherings, learn who will be there and what their interests are. You don’t have to be an expert in every topic, but learning a little bit about your fellow guests in advance will help you carry on conversation. You can also read the newspaper, magazines, or go online and become abreast of current events.
Be on the Early Side of On-Time
When you are one of the first people to arrive at the party, then you can meet people as they come in. This allows you to ease into the situation and gradually speak to people, instead of being faced with a group all at once. When you arrive at a party or gathering a little late and everyone is already there, you may feel like an outsider looking in — not sure where to start or who to talk to.
Avoid Depending on Alcohol
The holidays can be a dangerous time of year for those who tend to use alcohol as a coping strategy for dealing with social anxiety. Although one glass of wine or the featured holiday drink might help ease pre-party jitters, overindulging will impair your ability to interact effectively with others. Set yourself for up for success with other methods you will use to cope with your anxiety. Decide in advance if you will be drinking and how much. However …
Be Cautious of Drinking While on Medications!
From a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner to the champagne toast on New Year’s, mixing alcohol with your medications can be dangerous. Some drugs contain ingredients that can react with alcohol, making them less effective. For people who have been prescribed antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), it’s best to avoid alcohol entirely. When alcohol interacts with these drugs it can cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure.
Take Time Out for Yourself
The holidays are a particularly busy time of the year, and it’s important to put your own mental health first. For example, if your family’s obligations tend to wear you down, make a plan for how much time you will spend with relatives and stick to it. Then, make sure that the time you do spend counts.