How To Reduce Social Anxiety During The Holidays

Your expert guide to adjust to increased social interaction and stimulation.

It’s been a year and a half of being in front of screens, wearing masks and limiting our social interactions to absolutely necessary runs to the supermarket, so naturally, our brains have had to adjust to less social interaction and less social stimulation.

Although there may be a learning curve to get back into the swing of things, most of us have not completely forgotten how to socialize.  However, there will be a period of adjustment for most of us. Most of us will be a little more self-conscious, need to practise our social skills, and overcome some awkwardness at first especially now that we are getting into the Holidays soon.

“As covid restrictions are easing and we are moving into the holiday party season, what are people experiencing?”

What people are experiencing may depend on whether they are naturally introverted or extroverted. The introverts and those who suffer from anxiety disorders for the most part during the pandemic liked having a limited social bubble, while the extroverts and outgoing personalities were feeling lost, lonely and had a really tough time, some even experiencing clinical depression.

Now with the restrictions lifted, the extroverts are geared up and ready to go; they are mostly looking forward to returning to social gatherings. On the other hand, introverts may be feeling increased anxiety about face-to-face interaction, about how they will look publicly, feeling unsure about how to behave and how to fit in again, in person.

“For those who may be feeling anxious or nervous about the family holiday dinner or returning to holiday social gatherings what can they do?” 

1. Ease into it

For your first time going out in public or family social situations, you may choose to get together with a small group, on your terms with who you feel most comfortable to gather with and where you feel most comfortable gathering.

For example, do you prefer to only meet with vaccinated friends or are you open to gathering with everyone? Do you prefer to gather at home, a restaurant, or another venue?

2. Establish new norms within your family or friend group

Do the new norms look identical to the old world prior to covid where everyone behaves as we did before?  Or are you going to encourage masking? Do you decide to hug only while masked? Do we get tested beforehand?  Is it okay to shake hands?

Be okay with having these conversations prior to gathering instead of assuming everyone is on the same page.

3. Utilize your usual coping strategies

Use tools like deep breathing and visualization to prepare you for the gathering. And while you are there utilize natural distractions, like the tv, caring for children or being the one to help out in the kitchen.

Distractions can combat the pressure to be socially engaged at all times and diminish feelings of overwhelm or overstimulation.  Also plan to engage in activities you love, bring a game or activity with you. Take breaks and set boundaries for example on the length of your stay.

And now what if you decide you want to opt-out of the family or holiday gatherings altogether?”

First, be mindful that this is not social anxiety avoidance. If it is, avoidance in the long run only makes anxiety worse. Outside of that, if you are planning on bowing out gracefully, let people know early so they can plan adequately.

Be okay with putting yourself and your needs first. Let friends and family know that it’s not personal, but it’s just what you feel you prefer at this time or that you have decided to start new traditions. Be sure to stay connected with them in other ways.