11th December 2017
The festive season can be an overwhelming time of year for all involved, let alone when you have social anxiety. With countless parties to go to, people to see and busy shopping centres to visit, there’s a lot of pressure surrounding Christmas, and it can be difficult to cope. There are so many things that can cause anxiety in the run up to Christmas, more so than usual, making it an intense period to steer through. As much as many of us would like to hibernate for the winter, it’s not always easy to avoid the social expectations at this time of year, so here are some tips for navigating the festivities with social anxiety.
Schedule down time
With a calendar full of commitments and Christmas preparations, it can be all too easy to forget to take some time for ourselves during the festive season. It might sound trivial, but blocking off some time in your calendar for a bit of much needed rest and relaxation helps give your brain a break from the stresses surrounding Christmas. Feeling tired or stressed out can make things feel even harder to cope with, so making sure you’re well rested is so important. I know that my mental health is worse when I’m over tired or not taking the time to look after myself. Make the most of those new festive pyjamas and head to bed early with your favourite film instead of heading out in the cold!
Have an escape plan
If you are heading out, knowing your schedule in advance can help in stressful moments. I find I’m a lot more relaxed on a night out if I’ve got a clear idea of what time I’m leaving and how I’m getting home, as it gives me something to focus on if I’m feeling overwhelmed. It sounds bad on the surface, but having something you can use as an excuse to leave is handy for the moments that you just want to escape the noise and get home to a safe space to switch off.
One of my biggest anxiety triggers is alcohol, followed closely by caffeine and sugar. At this time of year, it’s hard to avoid a little bit of indulgence every now and again, but to keep my mental health in check I have to know my limits. Sometimes overindulgence can come with a side order of guilt, which can really interfere with emotions, and alcohol is a known depressant, too.
Don’t be afraid to say no
Fear of missing out can lead you to feel pressured to say yes to every single invitation, but the most important thing you can do for yourself, at any time of year, is learning how to say no when you can and want to. Putting yourself first isn’t a bad thing to do, and if you know that a situation is going to be stressful for you, or you’d rather have an evening to yourself instead of heading to the pub yet again – say no! It might feel like you’re letting people down, but you’re not. If the people around you aren’t willing to accept that you need time for yourself, then they’re not really your friends. Saying no helps you set boundaries and prioritise your own feelings and needs. In the long run, it’s far worse to put yourself in anxiety-inducing situations that leave you feeling overwhelmed or stressed than it is to say no to something. It can be difficult to get used to, but it’s more important to put yourself first than worry about pleasing others all the time.
Find out more about anxiety here.