7 Tips to Beat the Social Anxiety Grinch
We all know that the Grinch did his best to ruin Christmas, but social anxiety can also make the holiday season a nightmare. It is is not easy to live with at any time, but as the party season comes closer it can be more difficult than ever. Family gatherings, parties and other festivities can be a nightmare for those who are not at ease in company, all the more so because everyone else seems to be having such fun.
What is social anxiety?
Just as it 'says on the tin', social anxiety is anxiety that is triggered by social situations. It's much more than being shy, or even anti-social. For those who experience it, it can be an overwhelming sense of panic including symptoms like a dry mouth, trembling, nausea, rapid heartbeat, shaky voice, sweating, feeling paranoid, insecure, or out of step with everyone else.
Many sufferers simply avoid social events whenever possible but this leads to a problem. When you avoid something that makes you anxious, you feel relief. That's a good feeling, so the next time you think about socialising your anxiety levels will go even higher to make sure you avoid it again. By the time you come to an event you simply can’t avoid, the anxiety levels will be really high.
The good news is that social anxiety can be beaten, although I would always recommend discussing your anxiety with your GP before you take these steps, in case there's another cause.
How to survive the party season with social anxiety
- Learn some relaxation or breathing exercises before you go out, so you can use them when you’re there.
- Share the fact that you're anxious with someone you trust, feeling the need to hide it makes it worse.
- Face your fears - go to the party. If it’s easier, make a 'hierarchy of fears' (a list of events in order of how scary they are) and start with the easiest.
- Focus outwards on what's going on around you instead of inwards on your thoughts and feelings. This works because you can think and you can feel, but not both at the same time. Using the logical brain to notice the colour of the wallpaper or the number of people wearing red helps to switch off the emotional responses.
- Avoid props like alcohol and party drugs which might lead to you doing something silly in reality instead of in your imagination!
- Accept that thinking something bad might happen doesn't mean it will - challenge your negative thoughts by adding BUT and an answer to them. For example, if you think 'I don’t know what to say to people I don’t know' add 'BUT I can always ask them about themselves' to make it feel more positive. There are more tips to combat negative thinking here.
- Taking this a step further, remember that people love a good listener as well as to talk about themselves. Ask questions and then sit back and listen. After a while, you'll feel confident enough to add to the discussion.
And if that's not enough, give me a call to see how I can help.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter on these blogs: Rachel Waller.