Hermit for the Holidays: Outsmarting Seasonal Social Anxiety
I am a recovering SERIAL Flaker.
Let me explain.
I wasn’t a compulsive liar that planned on flaking on the majority of my plans. On the contrary, my flakiness was an offshoot – a side affect - of people pleasing.
For a long while, I struggled with saying “NO” to people, this included failing to decline social invitations.
Even though I did not FEEL like accepting an invitation, I still would, because I reasoned to myself that I had no acceptable reason to say ‘No.’
If I didn’t have any immediate plans, and I wasn’t busy, what reason could I give to say ‘NO’ except that I didn’t FEEL like it. And which of my friends would accept that?
In order to skip the part where they tried to convince me to go (or agree) and I changed my mind, to PLEASE them, I would just say YES, and save us the trouble.
Unfortunately, this would lead to my habitual flaking.
On my "better" flaking days (typically with my closest friends), I would send a message, last minute, short and to the point to “I can’t make it.” On my "worst" flaking days, when I figured my presence, or lack thereof, wouldn’t be noticed, I just wouldn’t show up, no explanation, and kind of hope it never came up…
Thankfully, over the years I have learned that saying NO is perfectly okay, especially when you have no other reason except that you simply FEEL like saying NO.
But nothing threatens to cause a "relapse" to my old flaky ways than becoming overwhelmed with numerous social invitations that seem to threaten to fill up my calendar. And of course, the Holiday Season is prime time for social gatherings of all kinds.
I’m not anti-social. I have moments when there’s nothing I want more than to go out, or to host and entertain. But I also have other moments when there’s nothing I want more than to stay home, Netflix and chill. (See what I did there? Lol)
The Holidays Are Here
I knew the holidays were here when last week some of my friends started making plans for holiday hangouts and started asking if Danny and I would be free.
I wanted to be excited but with so many things going on back to back I started feeling overwhelmed, and my seasonal social anxiety started kicking in:
- Excessive Self-Consciousness
- Intense worry
- Upset stomach
- Racing heart
- Tight chest
- Feeling faint
- Staying quiet
For a moment I wanted nothing more than to be a hermit for the holidays.
I even thought I had already gone into hermit mode, when someone asked about our thanksgiving plans and I said we didn’t have anything special planned aside from the fact that I would be cooking for Danny and myself.
“Well if you two feel like being social you’re invited to come by and hang out with us,”
I freaked out.
Was I being anti-social?
Had I already become a hermit for the holidays?
...AND Thanksgiving is just the Beginning of the holiday season....
Outsmart Seasonal Social Anxiety
Here’s how I outsmarted my holiday-induced social anxiety (and how you can too):
Take a Deep Breath
Our breathing directly correlates to feelings of anxiety. Breathing faster than normal can induce dizziness, a racing heart, and lightheadness. Take a moment to focus on your breathing. Take slow breathes – in through your nose out through your mouth.
Practice Realistic Thinking
Feelings of anxiety tend to propel us to the negative side of our thoughts spectrum, and we can begin to make hyperbolic assumptions – in my case it was thoughts of not being in control of my life, not having anytime to myself, and being frowned upon for not wanting to participate. None of that is true. I forced myself to think realistically about the situation.
I am in control of my life, well at least my social calendar.
I can still have time for myself.
My friends will understand if we simply can’t make it, this time.
Create an Objective Goal
So you may not want to go to Every holiday party that doesn’t mean you have to become a holiday hermit and avoid all the get togethers. Create an objective goal that allows you to experience the joy in balancing invitations and your own time. Start small. For me it was following through and attending a Christmas Tree lighting this past Saturday. Saturday turned out to be stressful and I had every reason to flake, but I had set a goal for myself, and I followed through. I had a blast!
If You Accept, Be Present
This goes beyond simply keeping your word. Let’s face it sometimes life does happen and we can’t make it. But if you do go to a holiday dinner, or party, live in the moment. Forget about the other million things you have to do, or could be doing. Relax. Enjoy yourself. Socialize. Meet new people. Listen intently. Laugh if you want to laugh. Don’t shy away or try to avoid drawing attention to yourself, you’re there, make it known. Be brave. Be bold. Be you. Be Present.
This is self explanatory. Sometimes you will not be up to doing something, for whatever reason, and that is okay too. You can say No.
The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with the ones you love. There are many people who truly experience loneliness this time of year for a number of reasons. Another way to combat your own seasonal social anxiety is to seek these people out and to love on them in a special way.
Tis the season for family gatherings, good times, and thankfulness.
May we all make the most of this time we've been given!