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Decrease social anxiety for a happy Thanksgiving

Decrease Social Anxiety for a Happy Thanksgiving

The festivities are just right around the corner, but with the laughter and fun may also come anxiety. Knowing how to decrease social anxiety can help you experience a wonderful season and a happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Social Anxiety and the Holidays

Family holidays like Thanksgiving are all about observing gratitude and celebrating a familial bond over a traditional meal.

But for people with social anxiety, flying back home and meeting half-a-dozen new extended family members (through missed births and weddings) can be a daunting and frightening task. If you struggle with social anxiety, then you’ll know that it’s more than just introversion or a preference towards smaller crowds – social anxiety can be debilitating, even in a family event.

Also known as social phobia, social anxiety is a mental health condition characterized by intense fear and worry about how other people react to what you say, what they say about you, and what they might think about you behind closed doors.

Social anxiety can make it difficult to speak to others, difficult to converse with strangers, and can lead to countless erratic and intrusive thoughts that spark panic in a social situation – even when well-known faces, such as friends and family members, are nearby. In day-to-day life, social anxiety can be very difficult to deal with – but things get even more awkward when it’s family and you’re expected to interact with others.

10 Ways to Decrease Social Anxiety for Thanksgiving Day

Social anxiety has risen after COVID, as more and more people begin to struggle with social fears as a result of the isolation during the lockdown. Learning to manage these fears now, as family events and other social gatherings continue, is important.

Here are a few useful tips on how you can decrease social anxiety in the lead-up to a Thanksgiving dinner.

1. Get a Travel Companion

If you are a long way from home, then your panic might start mounting the moment you head off – or even before that, while packing. This isn’t great.

Ruminating in your thoughts and anticipating a terrifying Thanksgiving is a great way to write a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, get a travel partner. Go with a close friend or see if you can catch the same flight and drive home as your cousin or nearest family member.

2. Prepare Your Favorite Playlists

If traveling alongside someone else is out of the question, there’s always music and podcasts. Listening to your favorite hosts, your favorite book, or your favorite music can be relaxing, especially over the span of a lengthy journey.

This can also help you decrease social anxiety by distracting yourself from the upcoming dinner and keeping your thoughts from circling around what feels like an “inevitable disaster.” Goodbye, worries! Hello, Taylor Swift!

3. Do Something Relaxing Before the Encounter

It might sound a little last minute but consider booking a massage or a yoga session before your Thanksgiving dinner. Find a spa, parlor, or yoga studio nearby, and go for maximum relaxation.

If that’s out of the question, a makeshift alternative is to practice breathing exercises before dinner. Before people start arriving and before the table is set, find a little alone time to just breathe in and out, and practice positive mindfulness. If you’ve never done it before, there are apps and online instructions to help you out, including affirmations or positive mantras to drown out any inner self-doubt or anxious thoughts.

Studies show that engaging in something relaxing before a big anxiety-inducing event can greatly improve your anxiety reaction.

4. Volunteer to Help with the Dishes

Get a job! No, really – taking on an important role during the dinner process can give you an excuse to bail out of conversations and limit your human interaction while allowing you to focus on tasks that demand your attention, such as turkey prep, the veggies, collecting the dishes, handing out drinks, or washing up.

Having something to do is a great way to give yourself space to opt into conversations you might find interesting and dip back out when you’re starting to feel anxious.

5. Turn Panic into Hype

Some psychologists find that because anxiety is closer in behavior and thinking to excitability than calmness, it’s often easier to redirect individuals in the middle of panic or anxiety towards hype and excitement.

This means if you feel anxiety coming on, try to “fool” yourself into feeling excited about something instead – whether it’s something at work, a personal hobby of yours, the conversation you’re having, or even just the quality of the food.

6. Focus on the Good

Feeling good, in general, reduces stress and anxiety. It can help to decrease social anxiety, as well. So, try to focus on the good – and don’t let your mood get dragged down by anything else.

7. Sit Close to Friends

If you’ve got the opportunity to decide where you are on the seating chart, claim it – and try to seat yourself closest to people you can talk to, no matter what.

Pick your closest friend or a sibling you like, or even sit next to your parents. It also helps if they know about your anxiety – they’ll be able to keep an eye out for you, pull you away from conversations that are making you uncomfortable, and will generally be able to make the entire ordeal much more comfortable.

8. Avoid the Booze

Sometimes, alcohol can feel like a numbing drug. It does, in fact, lower inhibition and can have an acute effect on anxiety. But on the downside, alcohol makes anxiety much worse in the long run – and it doesn’t always make an anxious night any easier or better.

Skip the booze – it’s not worth the hangover or the risk that you might actually embarrass yourself.

9. Call It an Early Night

There’s no shame in dipping soon after dinner. Everyone has their own social tolerance, and no one can say you didn’t show up, even though it was uncomfortable at times.

Getting a good night’s rest can also help decrease social anxiety symptoms, especially if there’s more talking and meeting involved the next day.

10. Let Your Loved Ones Know About Your Anxiety

Social anxiety disorder is a serious mental health condition and one that can continue to affect a person in all aspects of life.

We’re ultimately social creatures and rely on each other – feeling anxious about most social interactions can make nearly any scenario difficult, awkward, or terrifying. It helps to have a backup. Tell your loved ones about your diagnosis if you haven’t yet, and work with them to find a way to enjoy Thanksgiving without spending most of it worried and anxious.

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