The holidays can be a time full of shopping, family traditions and holiday parties. But, for many people, it can also be a time of stress and social anxiety. The idea of walking into a crowded office party, traveling to see family and friends or attending large gatherings can produce intense feelings of anxiety and fear.
If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Social anxiety disorder is the second most common anxiety disorder in the United States, impacting 6.8 percent of adults in any one year. That’s 15 million people who feel anxiety and panic when facing social situations.
If you or your loved one is struggling with social anxiety, use these tips from the MHFA curriculum to manage symptoms and #BeTheDifference for yourself this holiday season.
- Plan ahead. Take a few hours to organize your schedule and to-do-list for the coming weeks. When you write everything down and develop a plan, you can help manage feelings of fear of the unknown.
- Find your support system. Talk to and spend time with people you trust, whether that is family, friends, faith communities or people who have also experienced similar anxiety. If you’re nervous about attending a large holiday gathering, take that person with you for support and companionship.
- Make time for self-care. Even though the holiday season can be busy, try to make time for yourself and your mental health. Even just a few minutes every day to practice self-care strategies can help manage symptoms of anxiety. Therapies with scientific evidence for effectiveness with anxiety disorders include relaxation training, exercise, self-help books based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and meditation.
- Ask for help. Remember that it’s okay to feel anxious and ask for help. A variety of health professionals can provide additional support and resources, including primary care physicians, mental health professionals, certified peer specialists and psychiatrists. If you don’t know where to start, talk to your primary care physician first about how you’re feeling.
If a loved one is struggling with social anxiety, you can also take Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health First Aid teaches family members and friends how to recognize symptoms of anxiety and support their loved ones during challenging times. Find a course near you and #BeTheDifference this holiday season.