Counsellor Sarah Barr has simple and discreet tips for managing social anxiety during the busy party season.

With Christmas getting closer, many of us will feel a mixture of excitement and worry. However, for those of you who live with social anxiety, Christmas can be a very anxious time.

A certain amount of worry or anxiety over finances, potential drunken mistakes or even some awkwardness at spending time with extended family members is quite normal. Social anxiety however can make you obsess about these, creating assumptions, irrational beliefs and negative thoughts.

Christmas can also be stressful due to the expectation and often pressure to spend time with others and to be ‘happy’ while you are doing it.

Some of the physical symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Blushing
  • Upset stomach
  • Shaky voice
  • Racing heart
  • Tightness in chest
  • Sweating
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Panic/anxiety attack.

Most people who have social anxiety can be fixated on their perceived social inadequacies. This can be triggered from meeting a new person, nights out or being watched while eating.

Sometimes those who appear confident and outgoing can have social anxiety.

If you have social anxiety, know you’re not alone.

“Sometimes I panic to the point where I don’t know what I am thinking or doing. I have a full anxiety attack”- Dakota Johnson.

“I’m not good in large groups. I just make everything more awkward” – Britney Spears.

“I wish somebody had told me that its okay to be anxious, that you don’t have to fight it, that in fact fighting it makes it worse. That pushing it away is really what it is-its the fear of fear”-Mara Wilson.

If you feel a panic or anxiety attack coming on, here is a Grounding Exercise which can be used to help calm and lower anxiety.

Tips to help manage Social Anxiety

1. Focus on one person in the room:

Before social anxiety kicks in with the negative thoughts and self-talk, find your person. If you have arrived at a party/gathering on your own, do a quick room scan and find the person in the room that you have a connection with. Sit down next to them and have a conversation.

Check out an earlier article in which I gave some tips on starting and keeping a conversation flowing. You can start with something simple like “how are you?”  By focusing on them you are taking the attention of you.

2.  Go to the bathroom:

Even if you don’t have to use the toilet, you can escape to a quiet space, sit down and breathe for a few minutes. Once we slow down our breathing our mind slows down. Allowing you to settle and regroup. Lowering your anxiety.

3. Practice small talk:

Before leaving your house, write down and practise some conversation topics that you know and are interested in. Also ask questions which are open-ended. This allows the other person to talk rather than just say “yes”or “no”.


If you find your social anxiety too high, there is professional help available.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often used by counsellors to help to treat social anxiety. CBT is based on the theory that negative and anxious thoughts are challenged and changed. With symptoms tackled, whilst learning new coping tools and strategies to help you manage social anxiety.

If you would like any further information or to book in for a free Coffee & Chat please contact me through my Facebook page or call 086 447 7867.

Take Care ~ Sarah Barr.