Social Anxiety and the Holidays

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, office gathering, family get togethers, and New Years Eve plans. It’s also a time of year when I hear a lot of talk about not wanting to go to these events because of social anxiety or feeling lonely or alone.

Below are 5 tips that might help you get through this season:

  1. Breathe. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 or 6 and then breathe out for a count of 6 or 8. If you have asthma, breathing difficulty, or on Oxygen, I do not recommend this tip, so please skip to #2. This will help you center yourself and keep your focus on what you can control – your breath!
  2. Go with a buddy. If you’re allowed to bring a guest, go for it. It always helps to know someone and if you end up going to an event where you know no one or very few people, this person can be a good buffer for potentially awkward conversations.
  3. Make a plan. Sometimes, not going to an event is not an option. When that’s the case, consider going for a short period of time and making a graceful exit. Tell the host when you RSVP that you have another commitment and will come for a short period of time in the beginning. Even if you stay for a half hour, you’re still giving yourself an opportunity to interact with others and work through your anxiety while it is still tolerable. Just make sure to thank the host, point out that the party (or food, etc.) was great.
  4. Have go-to conversation starters. Make a list of topics that might start a conversation, even if you aren’t as well versed as you think you need to be. Examples include: sports, the weather, travel, family, any common interests…anything that is light and stays away from more serious topics, such as health and politics.
  5. Approach people in groups of 3 or more.¬†Two people are likely having a private conversation, while 3 or more are likely more open to having you join the discussion. So, grab your drink of choice and introduce yourself. You can ask how the people in the group know the host, comment on the food/venue, and then listen to what they discuss. Take your lead from the people that are already conversing and remember to ask questions that don’t have just a “yes” or “no” answer to keep the conversation going.

Wishing you the best this holiday season!