It's that time of year. The time when we are expected to attend the company holiday party, be in attendance at family functions and join in the fun at friend's homes. For most of us, these social obligations are fun. But for those with social anxiety disorder (SAD) even the prospect of attending can cause fear and anxiety.
When social anxiety disorder interferes with daily functioning, the holidays become a source of dread. Rather than embracing the holiday season, you may want to avoid parties and other social outlets. Loneliness and depression can set in.
If you have SAD, it is important to seek medical help, if you have not already done so. If you have, it is just as important to continue following your treatment plan. Some people may find it helpful to work more closely with therapists and other mental health professionals to manage the added stress during the holidays.
In addition to seeking treatment, there are some ways you can help to manage the symptoms of SAD:
Choose which events you want to attend. Many people feel they must attend every party and social event they are invited to, afraid to offend someone by not making an appearance. However, you do not need to attend every holiday function. Choose which events you feel you might enjoy. Small, more intimate parties may be easier than large formal gatherings.
Research events before attending. Finding out about parking, whether you will need money, who will be at the party, and any additional details you may need to know. Sometimes, not being sure about these items can cause increased anxiety.
Be prepared with small talk. The fear of not knowing what to talk about can make you freeze, creating even more anxiety. Take time before a party to read the newspaper, movie reviews or go online to find out more about current events.
Maintain healthy habits. Taking care of yourself can help to relieve anxiety symptoms. Exercise, eating right and making sure to get a good night's sleep are all important. Alcohol and caffeine can increase anxiety so you may want to avoid or minimize your consumption of these.
Bring a friend or family member. Attending a party alone can be frightening. Bringing alone someone for moral support can help to ease the anxiety.
Arrive early. Many times people with SAD feel arriving late is the best approach. However, it can be difficult to enter into conversations that are already taking place. It may be easier to be one of the first to arrive and speak with people as they enter the party.
Avoid isolating yourself. Although it may seem easier to just avoid the parties altogether, isolating yourself is not the answer. This can actually increase your sense of loneliness and anxiety, making social situations in the future that much more difficult.
Leave time for relaxation. Even though there may be lots of parties and events going on, reserve some evenings for down time.
More information on social anxiety disorder: