Counsellor Sarah Barr shares practical advice for managing stress while spending time with others.

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 seemingly happy while you are doing it.

Below are a few tips that may help to manage Social Anxiety this Christmas.

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.

4. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy –
A therapy technique 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.

Counselling can help you build self-confidence and achieve personal goals.

For more information, I can be contacted by calling 086 4477867 or via my Facebook page 

Take care ~ Sarah.