3 Ways To Deal With Social Anxiety At Holiday Parties

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
It's holiday season — and holiday party season. And, as new survey results reveal, for many of us, that can bring on some serious social anxiety.

According to the survey, which included the responses of 1,188 adults in the U.S., social anxiety is pretty common. Although the survey didn't ask specifically about a fully diagnosed social anxiety disorder, about half (54%) of participants reported feeling some symptoms of social anxiety. But that number jumps to 70% among people between the ages of 18 to 29. And around the holidays, there are a few unique sources of stress: About a third of participants, ages 18-29, said that social events (35%) and family interactions (32%) caused them anxiety.

The survey was performed by Joyable, a website that connects people with coaches who can help them overcome many of the challenges of social anxiety, using the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). To help us get through this season's marathon of cocktail parties and secret Santa exchanges, we asked Joyable's trained coaches for some tips:

Head into the party with an achievable goal.
Remember that it's probably not the event that's making you nervous, but rather the assumptions that you're making about the small elements that feel awkward. Set a small, achievable goal, such as staying for one hour, meeting two new people, or dancing to one song, experts recommend. That way, the event won't feel so overwhelming.

Remember that there's no such thing as a "perfect" conversation.
Cocktail conversation can definitely be intimidating. If you're worried about talking about yourself or that you just won't have anything to say, experts suggest reminding yourself of a time when you successfully shared about yourself in the past. And remember, pauses in a conversation aren't a sign of doom — they're totally natural. The hardest part of a conversation is usually simply saying hello, and when you're into an actual conversation, it'll flow more easily than you expect, Joyable's experts say.

Turn off the mental spotlight.
As much as you're worrying about what other people think of your appearance or behavior, remember that they're probably going through the same thing, and thinking far more about themselves than you, experts say. Similarly, other attendees are there to have a good time and not to judge others. Although something like stumbling over your words may seem like a huge deal to you, other people probably won't even notice.

Check out Joyable's infographic below for a more complete picture of holiday-related social anxiety. And remember: Small talk is temporary.
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Image: Courtesy of Joyable.
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