As 2018 rolls to a close, these days of the festive sandwich are stuffed with compulsory social commitments ranging from the casual to the comprehensive. If you didn’t crumble in the pre-Christmas anticipation, the pressure of the post-xmas expectations could hit like a hurricane. The stress that grows from lack of sleep, gifting the “wrong” gifts, sitting beside the inappropriate family dinner guest, messaging your unrequited love, oozing over yet another newborn or engagement ring, and having to outshine last year’s achievements as you hold your own in the rounds of social conversations… ALL of this wonderful festive mayhem can have adverse affects on your body and mind.
Anxiety is real and social anxiety can be crippling when you don’t have tools and a game plan to win over the condemning voices and scenarios playing out in your head. Beating anxiety does not result from beating yourself up over how uncomfortable you feel and wishing you could be different. You are who you are and more people than you realize are eagerly waiting to spend time with you. This year your social ship doesn’t have to sink like last year or leave you drowning in sinking feelings long after the event is over. Being proactive in your positivity and in your interactions can turn an otherwise emotionally disruptive event into an enjoyable and memorable one.
You, neuf points ~ Your anxiety – 0 points.
Here’s how you can defeat social anxiety with a big smile on your face:
1. SAY LESS, LISTEN MORE
If the relentless repeat of reeling off your year’s activities, accomplishments and conquests floods you with high density anxiety, know that if you can’t avoid the situation entirely, you can always deflect. Keep the big mouth talking about themselves. Just keep turning the questions back at them. They’ll revel in the glorious attention, overruling the fact that they have no new scoop on you, yet when you cross their mind, they’ll be filled with warm thoughts… remember, people will forget your name and forget what you said, but they never forget how you make them feel.
2. OPTIC LIBERATION
When you start spiralling into thinking of how sitting in family situations makes you feel uncomfortable and awkward in their company… what if you were completely liberated of these feelings? See yourself sitting in the situation and instead of the discomfort… what does it look like when you play out the scenario where you feel comfortable, what does it look like when you’re laughing, when you’re happy? Get some details dialled in on the “what ifs”. What if I really enjoyed myself this year, what if I showed people my sense of humour this year, what if I sparked happiness in others this year… Imagine the new scenario, visualise it, feel it… what unfolds may surprise you!
3. GAME TIME
Make a decision to not entertain your own unhappy and heavy thoughts that most likely originate from the past. Let’s say you know your mum is going to push your buttons. You could decide to play a game with yourself, where you take each interaction as a challenge with her as a game :
you get +2 points for reacting in a new/different way,
you get -3 for every time you respond with a brash/defensive/mean/snappy reaction (most likely similar to an old interaction from the past).
The aim of the game is to start becoming more aware of your responses, and then responding in a fresh n’ different way. Game on.
4. PEACE MANTRA
Peace begins and ends with you. What would it take to be peace? Real peace. Open arms, compassionate, unconditional peace? It’s a tricky one. Conflicting nations are not at war because peace is easy. Peace is vulnerable, peace is innocence, peace is letting go. When I find myself getting caught up in troubling thoughts from the past and I can’t get my stubborn (oh so stubborn) self to be the peace, I pull my emergency exit handle. I repeat the mantra:
‘light release my illusions to love’.
Before I know it, with very little physical effort on my part, the situation has dissipated and I’m smiling amid an easier conversation.
5. THIS TOO SHALL PASS
Fortunately, this most wonderful time of the year only happens annually. Whatever the engagement may be, from a couple of hours to a few days, know that there is an expiration date, and soon you will get to return to your own personal schedule. Sometimes, remembering that you’ll be out the gap in two hours or that you won’t have to see the fellow eventees for another 12 months is enough to release tension and smash a smile on your face.
6. NO IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE
It’s ok to say “No”. You’ve got to take care of number 1 (you) ahead of everyone and everything else. If you don’t want to attend the dinner, if you don’t want to connect with someone, then stand your ground and be ok with saying “No.” It doesn’t mean you’re being anti-social or self destructive, saying “No” is most uncomfortable when you’re asserting new boundaries. Be responsible with your emotions and your choices.
8. SNIFF THE WHIFF
Olfactory memory refers to the recollection of scents. Psychologists are quick to relay that our sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. Those with full olfactory function only need to think of smells to evoke particular memories. Could it be that all you have to do to dissipate a strong emotional charge from a situation is alter what you are smelling? I find that lighting incense or a naturally scented candle or using an oil diffuser can transform the mood of an entire room. When I go to a new destination or embark on a new adventure, I normally begin a new scent so that in times of challenge (or in daily life transitions), I use the scent to help me reset my emotions to allow good thoughts to flush in. In the case of your party season survival kit, you could choose a scent which smells refreshing and uplifting to you… perhaps try lemon or eucalyptus or cedarwood or jasmine …and before the event or anytime during it, dab a couple drops on your wrist, hold your wrists up to nose and take at least 3 long inhales and exhales.
9. INCREASE SNOOZE TIME
Increasing the number of hours you sleep and decreasing your intake of sugar and alcohol are the pillars of stress management, which of course you know, but at this time of year, these deserve an extra-special shout out. Operating on little to no sleep will cause higher sensitivities to people (especially family) and their reactions. Two major inhibitors to deep sleep, taken together, separately and especially before bed, are alcohol and sugar. You can trick yourself into thinking that that nightcap will help you sleep better. But do you know what gives you the best deep sleep? More deep sleep. It’s the steps you take before bed that set you up on a posititve and emotionally strong foot for the next day.
Decide what time is “lights out” for you, no screens 1-2 hours before bed, no food 1-2 hours before bed, only water or chamomile tea 1-2 hours before bed. What if you decided to gift yourself an hour in bed every evening just to snuggle up with yourself?
It’s the simplest stuff that makes the biggest difference. Snuggle up.
How have you been feeling during this festive season? If anxiety been creeping up on you, could implementing 1 (or all) or the above help you break free? Share in the comments which of the 9 you’re going to try out before the end of 2018!
Sat Chit Ananda,
Image source: Jeremy Bishop, https://unsplash.com/photos/KputBgWH-Ek