The holidays are here. Typically a time of cheer, they can transform into a nightmare gauntlet of parties and social events that cause panic, dread, and fear of being judged by others. If the thought of going to one more party or holiday event has your skin crawling, you aren’t alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 15 million people suffer from social anxiety in the United States.
People with social anxiety try to avoid situations where they will be with a group of individuals. They imagine being judged or become highly self-conscious about their appearance, behaviors, or personal trait. The good news is there are tips from cognitive behavior therapy or CBT that can be used to help reduce this stress and help you enjoy the party.
CBT is a form of therapy based on showing you how to manage anxiety from a couple of angles. First, CBT addresses the overly negative and distorted thoughts that overwhelm the minds of individuals with social anxiety. Second, CBT helps those with social anxiety develop new and healthier behaviors or patterns of action. These techniques can be simple, but they require dedication, persistence, and some uncomfortable feelings at first.
Get Prepped Ahead of the Event
- Start small and challenge yourself to strike up a conversation with a stranger on the bus or in the coffee shop. This will help you ease into talking with a larger group later at the event.
- Practice talking in front of the mirror or put on your phone’s headset and play out different scenarios as you walk to the event. No one knows you’re talking to yourself.
- Check yourself out in the mirror right before leaving to make sure everything is in order. This will give you peace of mind over your appearance if your critical voice creeps in.
- Give yourself a heads up with a simple conversation starter. Wear a piece of clothing, accessory, or piece of mobile tech that you like to serve as an icebreaker for people to compliment. This also gives you an opportunity to politely return the favor and start a small conversation about that item.
- If it’s appropriate, ask the host if you could bring a guest. This person can be your buffer during the night and you know they are there as a safety net to talk with.
During the Event
- Be a helpful guest and offer to help the host. This gives you an excuse to avoid long conversations with guests and provides a boost to your self-esteem for doing something helpful for the host.
- Excuse yourself when you need a break. No one can argue needing to take a trip to the bathroom, and you can always switch things up such as having to check your makeup or clean your glasses/ contacts. This gives you a quick break and provides a smooth exit from any conversation.
- Hunt down the family pet, if they’re friendly. Petting animals has been shown to reduce blood pressure and release endorphins which elevate mood. Just ask the host first, if you are unfamiliar with the animals, and be mindful that they might be nervous with all of the extra people around.
- Start small by scanning the guests and choosing one or two to sit next to during the first hour of the event. This creates a safe bubble for a more intimate conversation instead of being in the spotlight with a larger group. You will also get yourself warmed up to the idea of interacting with the larger group later on.
- Let your inner kid out. If there are children at the event, have fun with them. The guests will think you are sweet, the kids will get a kick out of having an adult hanging out with them, and you get the bonus of being with a group that is not judging you.
Now you’re armed with a tool box of CBT techniques help manage any holiday occasion. Using these strategies can help get you on the right track for managing your social anxiety during the holidays. But, if you are still having issues managing your anxiety, don’t hesitate to contact the therapists at Pacific CBT. We’re trained to help you develop long lasting skills to overcome your anxiety. Social anxiety doesn’t have to control your life or your holiday plans.