Christmas Socialising Anxiety



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December 2017

Christmas Socialising Anxiety - what causes yours?

Christmas Socialising Anxiety is what arises for many as the festive season approaches. In the previous blog post - Dreading Christmas - we considered various anxieties that arise at Christmas on account of the cost and what's expected of us by others.

This time we are going to look at all the other bits of the festive season that create extra anxiety in some people - those that relate to socialising, party going and even family get-togethers. Anxiety about socialising over the Christmas season is as big a problem for some as loneliness is for others.

First, however, it's important to draw a distinction between those things that we feel forced to do by others at this time of year and would really rather not do because we don't find them enjoyable, and those things which actually cause raised anxiety levels and phobic avoidance. All too often those who have real phobic issues about various Christmas activities are dismissed as "being stupid". This attitude only increases their fears.

If it's a case of a phobia such as those listed below, this can be addressed over time but the sufferer has to have a desire to become able to do whatever it is that they can't do now. If you have anxieties about some aspect of Christmas the festive season isn’t the best time to try and address your fears and overcome them. There’s far too much going on. Learning to understand and then overcome anxiety issues takes time and can't be rushed so it's best dealt with at other times during the year.

If it's just a hatred of doing something because you find it tedious or boring then you need to face up to the situation. You can negotiate with others involved and find a better way of doing things, you can approach it mindfully and focus your awareness on the positive aspects rather than doing it whilst telling yourself how much you hate it, or you can simply refuse to do it any more and take the consequences. There is always a choice - it's just that there isn't always the option we want to have!

For now let’s consider the main causes of anxiety at Christmas and what might be done to improve things. These are stop-gap measures to help you get through it now. 



The Perfect Family Christmas - a work of fiction?

I recall when I was a child there was always a Christmas special on TV featuring the singer, Andy Williams, his wife , Claudine, and their children. This programme showed the family supposedly having a perfect family Christmas, singing together around the tree, entertaining various friends and family members, and all being loving and happy.

That type of programme has a lot to answer for. So many of us have been brainwashed into believing that if the family gets together at Christmas it will all be magical and loving.

Whilst for some families this can indeed be the case. For many it’s just not going to happen. Yet year after year someone in the family tries to make it so and ends up creating even more tension and unhappiness. 

Forget about any ideas you might have about what should be a perfect family Christmas as it's portrayed in the movies. Focus instead on what's good for you and your loved ones.



Anxieties about shopping and/or what to get them

Sometimes the anxiety is caused by not knowing what to get them. There are various ways around this. Some families create wish lists using a website so everyone who needs to can look at it and get ideas what to get them. One site our family uses is Giftster. It’s free and easy to use once set up.

If you really don’t know what to get them, stop beating yourself up. Just get them a gift card or maybe something edible that you know they’ll like. The thing about edible gifts is that they almost always get used up. Edibles such as chocolates, special jams, pates. Many special packs of different foods are available at this time of year. The alternative to edible gifts is things such as shower gel - everyone washes at some time!  If you can get one that’s a scent they like so much the better.

Once you’ve given your gift that’s it. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. Never spend more than you can afford in an attempt to impress people or make them like you because it won’t work. There’s gift giving advice on my other website. There are also plenty of ideas all over the internet.




Office parties and other social events

drawing of people at office party

For some these are dreaded. People who enjoy socialising, clubbing, partying can’t understand how others simply hate doing those things. They put pressure on those who are less keen because they only see things from their own point of view.

On their website, Mind - the mental health charity - give the results of a poll they carried out about anxiety over the festive period. This shows, among other things, that the numbers of those who dread events such as the office party, may be far higher than the partygoers - who love such events and expect everyone else should as well - would have us believe. Personally I hate Christmas get togethers on the whole and I could never see any pleasure in clubbing. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I find myself unable to hear what people say to me in situations where there’s a  great deal of background noise? Or maybe I just don’t like noise environments.

If you hate office parties and the like, just don’t go. Or, if you do go, make some excuse to leave early on. You don’t have to put yourself through any of this if it’s not your thing. So don’t. If you are friends with someone who hates parties, stop hassling them to enjoy them simply because you do. Respect their feelings too.

drawing of people at office party

Office parties and other social events

For some these are dreaded. People who enjoy socialising, clubbing, partying can’t understand how others simply hate doing those things. They put pressure on those who are less keen because they only see things from their own point of view.

On their website, Mind - the mental health charity - give the results of a poll they carried out about anxiety over the festive period. This shows, among other things, that the numbers of those who dread events such as the office party, may be far higher than the partygoers - who love such events and expect everyone else should as well - would have us believe. Personally I hate Christmas get togethers on the whole and I could never see any pleasure in clubbing. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I find myself unable to hear what people say to me in situations where there’s a  great deal of background noise? Or maybe I just don’t like noise environments.

If you hate office parties and the like, just don’t go. Or, if you do go, make some excuse to leave early on. You don’t have to put yourself through any of this if it’s not your thing. So don’t. If you are friends with someone who hates parties, stop hassling them to enjoy them simply because you do. Respect their feelings too.



Family Get-togethers

This is the big one that many find unavoidable. Some people just feel anxious when around others, even family. This applies, for example, especially to those who are somewhere on the autistic spectrum.

I used to conduct assessments for diagnosing this. These people often had normal jobs yet found they struggled with team building expectations at work and aspects of socialising.For nearly all of these, Christmas was a huge dread. What they most hated was being forced to spend the entire day with other family members  when what they really wanted to do and enjoy was time alone. 

Many a marriage was possibly saved when a diagnosis was given because their reluctance was explained to their partners and a compromise reached. It was often suggested that they might have Christmas dinner with the family but then be permitted to spend the rest of the day doing what they wanted rather than what their partner thought they should be doing. They could reach a compromise. 

Instead of feeling forced into a situation you find difficult each year, maybe it's time to talk about it to other family members and see if you can't reach a solution that everyone's happier with.




Eating in front of others

Family eating Christmas dinner

For some the idea of eating in front of others is terrifying. There are fears of making a mess with their food, not eating quickly enough, and so on. Again this is not the time to be seriously trying to overcome such a fear. Find a solution. If you can’t explain it to the host yourself, then ask a trusted family member to do it for you. Ask maybe that they put your meal aside for you to eat alone later. 

You can then either sit at the table with everyone else in order to chat, or remain alone in another room to eat. Whatever you decide, do what feels good to you and don’t allow yourself to be bullied into doing what everyone else thinks you should.

Family having Christmas dinner

Eating in front of others

For some the idea of eating in front of others is terrifying. There are fears of making a mess with their food, not eating quickly enough, and so on. Again this is not the time to be seriously trying to overcome such a fear. Find a solution. If you can’t explain it to the host yourself, then ask a trusted family member to do it for you. Ask maybe that they put your meal aside for you to eat alone later. 

You can then either sit at the table with everyone else in order to chat, or remain alone in another room to eat. Whatever you decide, do what feels good to you and don’t allow yourself to be bullied into doing what everyone else thinks you should.




Opening presents in front of others

Girl opening gift and showing pleasure

If this is what makes you anxious, explain to the host and maybe ask that your gifts might be put aside so you can open them alone later. Say that you will truly appreciate them that way.

For some this anxiety is caused because they are afraid the gifts they have given won’t be liked so dread watching them opened. For others the fear is that they will open a gift in front of the giver and not be able to show gratitude.

An article on the Good Housekeeping website offers advice for family members on how to help those who might suffer anxieties such as these.

Girl opening gift and showing pleasure

Opening presents in front of others

If this is what makes you anxious, explain to the host and maybe ask that your gifts might be put aside so you can open them alone later. Say that you will truly appreciate them that way.

For some this anxiety is caused because they are afraid the gifts they have given won’t be liked so dread watching them opened. For others the fear is that they will open a gift in front of the giver and not be able to show gratitude.

An article on the Good Housekeeping website offers advice for family members on how to help those who might suffer anxieties such as these.



Christmas is just as much for you as for everyone else

Instead of living in dread of the Christmas season and festivities, take steps to make it work for YOU. Stop trying to hide your fears from the family. Instead tell them what makes you anxious and enlist their help in finding ways for you to cope. Identify what it is that you really dread and see if you can avoid putting yourself in those situations which you hate Christmas is about loving and giving to yourself as much as to others. There will be those who dismiss your fears and anxieties as rubbish and will attempt to force you to do things the way they think they should be done. This is where it helps to have a friend or other family member in your corner to speak up for you.  If you stand up to them this year, it will be so much easier next year… and the year after… You may even start enjoying this time of year!

Most families will never have or want the synthetic Christmas that was, and still is, portrayed on TV and in films. What matters is that we create a Christmas that works for us and those we love.




Three red candles burning

Have a mindful Christmas.
Don’t necessarily do what you’ve always done simply because that’s what you do. Move gently towards what works and away from what doesn’t.
Accept what is.




If you have an anxiety about some aspect of the festive season which you would really love to overcome then maybe consider enrolling in my online course in the New Year. This will take you step by step through an understanding of how anxieties arise and then teach you techniques which will enable you to get rid of it for good.

"Overcoming Anxiety the Feelgood Way"
Online video course to do in your own home at your own pace,



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