De-Stress Holiday Social Events

  • The holiday season is fast approaching. With family dinners, office parties, gift exchanges, and other festive events, what should be a joyous time often turns into a time of stress, anxiety, and worry. And if the thought of making small talk with coworkers or attending a large family party makes you feel sick, you are not alone. Socializing can be difficult, but if you're one of the millions with social anxiety disorder, you probably feel frightened around people, and you may even try to avoid social gatherings.


    You can do things to get your anxiety under control. Take a look at Triumph Over Shyness, Conquering Social Anxiety Disorder, (Second Edition). It is full of practical techniques to help you manage anxious thoughts and physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Take a peek inside.

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    If your anxiety is so extreme that you avoid social events and feel sick when you attend one, talk to a mental health professional. The good news is that your anxiety, which can affect you both mentally and physically, can be treated. Short-term therapy, medication, or a combination can make a huge difference in how you feel and act in social situations.

    In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you through the holidays:

    • Take the pressure off yourself. If you set high expectations for yourself and for others at holiday events, you're more likely to feel let down. Know that some things won't go exactly as planned - and that's just fine.
    • Most people aren't paying much attention to you. You may feel as if people are focusing on you, but in reality, most people are probably wondering what you are thinking of them. Try making a compliment, which can make others feel good, make you feel good, and reduce some stress.
    • Don't look for relief in alcohol or drugs. Although it can be tempting to "take the edge off" at holiday events, alcohol and drugs can make anxiety worse and may trigger panic attacks.
    • Smile, make eye contact, and ask questions. Most people like to talk about themselves and their interests. Ask other people about their holiday plans, what their kids are doing, or what book they're reading. Avoid religion, politics, and other topics that can lead to heated discussions and add to your stress.
    • Choose to say no. Try not to over-schedule yourself during the holiday season. You don't have to feel obligated to accept every invitation, and you may want to eliminate some traditions that cause you more stress than joy.

    Children can feel anxious, too, when your hectic schedule leaves little or no time for relaxation. Holiday parties, hugging unfamiliar relatives, and anticipation about traveling can cause or increase anxiety.

    Try these anxiety-reducing ideas:

    • Plan ahead. Talk to your child about what makes her anxious during this time of year and come up with ways to minimize that anxiety. Teach her how to initiate a handshake if hugging is unwelcome. Practice ways to say thank you for unwanted gifts or deep-breathing techniques for when you child feels overwhelmed.
    • Eliminate the unexpected. Tell your child who will be attending an event. If your family will have to travel, explain how you'll get there.
    • Create a secret signal that you and your child can use to let you know he needs your help without alerting others in the room.
    • Schedule special family time. Try to find time for your family to play a board game, watch a favorite holiday video, make cookies, or engage in other fun and relaxing activities at home.
    • Take care of yourself. Your child will pick up on your stress. So try to make sure the entire family eats balanced meals, drinks enough water, exercises, and keeps stressful holiday shopping and other events to a minimum.

    Make this the year you take control of holiday stress and enjoy the time with family and friends. Find inspiration and stress-release tips in Women Talk: Open the Dialogue - Triumph Over Anxiety Disorders, a beautiful 18-month desk calendar.


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    PLEASE NOTE: The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) does not endorse or promote any specific medications or treatments.


Published On: November 18, 2009