Contrary to what Hallmark movies would like you to believe, the holidays are not always a magical time filled with family joy and snowflakes. For many families, holiday gatherings can be tense and anxiety-provoking, especially if you took a year off due to the pandemic. If you find your social anxiety tends to spike during the holidays, use these tips to help manage those feelings and make gatherings as pleasant as possible.
If you anticipate holiday social anxiety, gear up for gatherings by putting yourself in a positive and relaxed headspace. Opt for a pre-gathering activity that makes you feel calm and collected, like a long hike, yoga, meditation, or crafting.
Keep yourself busy
Seeing family you haven’t interacted with in over a year can be joyous, but it can also be stressful. Keep your mind and your body busy by volunteering to help out at gatherings. Setting the table, chopping onions, entertaining young kids, or topping off people’s drinks will distract you from feeling awkward or nervous. Plus, many people find maintaining conversation easier when their hands are preoccupied with a simple task.
Before the gathering, make a list of all the things you are grateful for and looking forward to with the event. Maybe you get to visit with a favorite uncle that you haven’t seen in months or play with your niece or eat grandma’s famous pumpkin pie.
Find a safe seat
If the majority of your gathering is going to be spent sitting at the dinner table, choose a seat next to a close friend or relative that you know you can carry a comfortable conversation with.
You don’t have to share your worries with everyone, but if you are anxious about an upcoming gathering, it can be helpful to share your feelings with a trusted relative who can help you navigate the situation. Most likely, they will be experiencing similar concerns.