They are finally here… days of good cheer, Christmas parties, and lots of time with family and friends!

But for some people, these days are very difficult.

Those who suffer from social anxiety can become very uncomfortable at social gatherings. Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. You could say that social anxiety is the fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people. It is a pervasive disorder and causes anxiety and fear in most all areas of a person’s life. In fact, it takes an incredible effort just to walk through the door.

If you struggle with social anxiety, you are not alone. In fact, everyone has a certain amount of anxiety they face daily. Others have learned ways to cope with their anxiety, and you can too!

Here are 5 tips for dealing with social anxiety this holiday season.

  1. Remember that the people around you are friends and/or family. They are rooting for you and will help if needed. Share with someone you trust that you may want to spend more time with them, and have someone to lean on at the party.
  1. If you go to a party, plan a few breaks where you can find a quiet spot and take some time for yourself. If you sense you are beginning to get overwhelmed, take a break!
  1. Set a goal for the party. While it may be difficult, make it a point to greet 3 people before they greet you. You can also set three topics to ask them about – their family, holiday plans, and favorite Christmas movie. If you don’t hit all three topics, don’t worry! If you get one topic, that is one more than we had before! Reward yourself after a successful gathering. If you love ice cream, you deserve a sundae! Or a little retail therapy might be nice too!
  1. Recognize and work through your ANTs… Automatic Negative Thoughts. When social anxiety creeps up on you, a little voice is right by your side that whispers such things as “Everyone is looking at you.” “You’re not dressed right.” Or, “you don’t belong here.” Those negative thoughts capture your attention, but there are other thoughts and self-talk that can help you overcome the negative thoughts with positive ones such as “Everyone here is having a good time, and I can too.” Or, “I like the way the decorations look, and I’m enjoying myself.”
  1. Remember that you are not alone! Our Lord promised, “Lo I am with you always, to the very end the age!” Christmas is the time when we realize how important we are to God, and how much He wants to be close to us. You have more persons and more cheerleaders than you know on your side because you have Jesus (hard to beat Him); the Holy Spirit (who prays for us even when we don’t know what to pray for (Romans 8: 26)); God the Father, who loved us and called us His own (1 John 3:1); your friends; and your family. All there to love and support you!

You don’t need to dread the holidays. Instead, focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas. God reached out to His people who were suffering and in fear and gave them Good News. He took action to give them peace, joy, and hope! He does the same thing for you this season as well.

Remember, if you suffer from social anxiety, there is hope. Social anxiety is not permanent, and we can walk with you as you grow stronger. Our counselors have a heart for helping people. Reach out for help today using our web form.

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Rev. Mike Moreno
Mental Health Practitioner for Lutheran Family Service

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