Holidays and Social Anxiety

For anyone who has social anxiety, you would probably rather spend your holidays doing something like this:

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Rather than something like this:

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Let’s face it. Parties are mentally–maybe even physically–exhausting for those of us who are introverted. But social anxiety is not the same as introversion and for those of us who experience social anxiety, it is more like emotional and mental torture than simple exhaustion. The thought of going to a holiday party makes me want to cringe.

The exception to this would be holiday parties with my family and close friends where I know everyone and feel comfortable talking to everyone. However, when I am invited to a holiday party where I will only know one or two people among a crowd, I will more than likely find one reason or another to decline.

Take Christmas eve for instance. I was invited to spend the evening at my landlord’s Christmas dinner for his family which I quickly excused myself from with a fabricated “prior commitment”. Personally, I find the idea of spending time with my landlord and his family to be quite strange in and of itself, but add on the anxiety of having to talk to complete strangers and eat dinner with them? I would rather sit alone in the dark with all of the lights out pretending not to be home than go to that party. And that is exactly what I did.

For those of you who have never experienced social anxiety, you might find it difficult to relate to the experiences of your loved ones or even begin to understand why they seem to be so flaky with social engagements. To you I say please try to understand that anxiety is a real issue with very real and very uncomfortable symptoms. If you really want to see a friend or a loved one over the holidays but they decline every party invite you send their way maybe you should try inviting them to coffee or lunch or a girls (or guys) night in. I can’t speak for everyone, but I find it much more enjoyable to spend time with someone one-on-one as opposed to  going to a party. For starters, you get to spend more time talking to each other and catching up, but it also feels less overwhelming and anxiety provoking than going to a holiday party.

Food for thought for all of you party-goers!

Happy holidays!

xo

Ayla

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3 thoughts on “Holidays and Social Anxiety

  1. carolineturriff says:

    I am naturally a loner and love spending time in silence by myself. Most of my life is spent like this. I have challenged myself this Christmas by going on a very noisy 12 person holiday with recovery people I do not know well. I have found it overwhelming at times and had to retreat to my room. I am also spending a lot of time on my laptop while they play games or chat. But for someone such as me who has OCD and finds it difficult to share plates and cutlery with people let alone the same space it has been a massive step forwards to engage in this communal experience. I will very soon be totally recovered from OCD. http://bit.ly/1ER5cLY

  2. Carole Avila says:

    Ayla,

    I like your message to family members and friends asking for their patience with their loved ones who have social anxiety. For years I missed out on the most amazing opportunities because of the near panic I experienced when faced with being in crowds of people or at parties—regardless if they were people I knew or total strangers. It was doubly hard if I didn’t know the people very well. One-on-one get-togethers were still nerve wracking for me but a lot less so.

    My situation boiled down to my fear of not being accepted, loved, and approved of. What if I did or said the wrong thing? What if people thought I was too fat? What if I didn’t know how to “act” and came across as too phony? The “what if” list was miles long!

    Things finally changed for me as I changed my perception of myself and others. I continually reminded myself that I can’t please everyone, and neither can anyone else. The saying, “What other people think about me is none of my business” finally made sense. I learned to be okay with the possibility that other people might not approve of, accept or love me. The most important reminder was that when I met people who didn’t like me, I didn’t have to regress to my old patterns of trying hard to win their affections.

    As it turned out, after forcing myself to attend social situations that generally made me extremely anxious, I met people who wanted to know my story just as much as I wanted to know theirs. I was surprised to find that some people really liked me! I learned to embrace what made me an interesting person and finally felt willing to share those aspects of myself. It felt okay to occasionally admit to people, even total strangers, that I was shy and felt socially awkward. Most of the time that made people open up to me, and they helped me feel more comfortable.

    It took years of practice to change my mindset, be willing to get over socially challenging situations. To this day I still have some difficulty with facing fears around new groups of people, but I force myself to get through it. If my gut instinct says “Don’t go” to a particular event I won’t attend, but after lots of practice, I’ve been able to recognize that most of the time it’s my fear—and not my intuition—talking.

    My best friend once said to picture myself on my death bed and to ask myself if I would have regrets if I didn’t do a particular thing. And often times that makes facing my fears an easier process.

    Best wishes to all of those on this particular segment of the healing journey.

    -Carole Avila

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