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Holiday Anxiety and Social Obligations

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

One of the most anxiety provoking things about the holidays is the increase in social obligations. Whether it's office parties, family gatherings, or something else, if you're finding your calendar full of obligations that you feel you HAVE to do instead of WANT to do, there's a good chance anxiety is a part of your holiday season. If anxiety this holiday season due to social obligations is something you're trying to cope with, I've put together 5 tips to help reduce your anxiety and (hopefully) enjoy the socializing a bit more.

1. Decide to Go.

So much of our anxiety is wrapped up in the uncertainty. But the longer it takes you to decide the longer you ruminate with (and potentially increase) anxiety. The first step to reducing anxiety when it comes to a social obligation is deciding to go, as hard as it sounds. Once you make that decision, it's no longer a question to worry over and you can move forward.

2. Give yourself a time frame.

Unknowns frequently trigger anxiety. When it comes to social obligations, there's a lot we can't know ahead of time (bonus tip: acceptance to the tool to use here), but you can give yourself a time frame of how long you'd like to stay. For some obligations, it can be a literal amount of time, such as I'm going to stay at this office party for an hour. But for others, such as family gatherings, it might be something such as staying for dinner. If you decide to stay longer, you can, but if you'd like to leave as previously planned, you can do that too.

3. Ground yourself.

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Strategies that you can use anytime without anyone noticing are fantastic for social settings. Try this simple grounding tool if you don't have a go-to grounding strategy: simply feel your feet on the floor. Concentrating in the sensation of your feet on the ground can bring you into the present moment and focus on something other than anxious feelings. Practice before the social obligation so you'll be more likely to remember the skill in a social setting when your anxiety is higher.

4. Ask questions to start a conversation.

Figuring out what to say can be anxiety provoking in holiday social settings. A tip to start a conversation with someone is to ask them a question about themselves that is open ended (not a yes or no question). People usually like talking about their interests and/or sharing about themselves, so if you start by asking an engaging question and then let the conversation go from there, not only are you not stuck in that "I don't know what to say" feeling, but you're also connecting with someone (bonus!). And hopefully not feeling as anxious in the process.

5. Take a break if needed.

You are allowed to take breaks if possible! Whether that be going outside if it's accessible, getting up from the table and going to the buffet if you need a break from the conversation, or excusing yourself to the bathroom for a moment of quiet. We all need breaks, and in anxiety producing situations taking a break can give you time to ground (tip 3) but also a moment to collect your thoughts, think about what you'd like to do next (talk to your boss, get a slice of cake, etc), and then remind yourself of the time left before you say a gracious goodbye.

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