Your Guide to Social Anxiousness During the Holidays
The holiday season presents us with many reasons to come together, celebrate, and indulge. While gathering in merriment can be uplifting, it can also gift us with stress, concern, and worry.
This is particularly true for those more susceptible to social anxiousness, as holidays call for more interactions with friends, family, and co-workers. After all, a full social calendar only lends to more opportunities to be self-conscious and fearful of embarrassing oneself or offending others.
And because the holidays already cause the meter for anxiousness (and vata) to run intrinsically high—surely, you have felt the palpable buzz that happens this time of year—it doesn’t take as much to move the needle from feeling excitable to feeling unsettled or unmanageable.
Understanding social anxiousness, how you experience it, and what tools you can use to cope can help you use the holidays to fill your cup instead of emptying it.
Social Anxiousness and the Doshas
Feelings of anxiousness are most closely related to vata dosha. It’s ether and air’s light and mobile qualities that can easily cause one to feel uprooted, lose their center, and be pulled into excessive thoughts of fear and worry.
Social situations can heighten this experience, since the things associated with them stimulate vata dosha, such as talking, loud music, snacking, and simply doing things that are out of our normal routine.
Still, just as we know people of any prakriti, or inherent constitution, can experience a vata imbalance (vikriti), it’s true that any constitution can find themselves in a state of social unease and apprehension.
The social anxiousness itself may come with the same signs and symptoms, but the sources may vary. Here’s a glance at how social anxiousness might look different for each dosha.
Vata’s Social Anxiousness
Though vatas may be more likely to report feelings of anxiousness in social situations, they are also energized by them. They are driven and inspired by new experiences, meeting new people, and getting out and about.
Because of this, vatas may become nervous rather than eager to join the next gathering, especially if they are already imbalanced. They may find themselves experiencing stress leading up to the event, then ruminating on it afterward.
Pitta’s Social Anxiousness
Pittas are known to have plenty of confidence, quite the opposite of the self-consciousness that goes hand in hand with social anxiousness.
Or it may be the fear of making any social faux pas that makes them worry they may be perceived as less than. Pittas tend to have strong perfectionist tendencies. Mistakes can bruise their ego and shatter the confidence they arrived with.
Such experiences can cause them to be extra cautious when accepting another invitation and make them vulnerable to social anxiousness when attending another event.
Kapha’s Social Anxiousness
Kaphas love to gather and celebrate, but they prefer to do it with familiar people in predicable places with minimal frequency. Social anxiousness pays a visit to kaphas when they know they are going to have to step away from their norm, disrupt their routine, and be put in situations that require adaptability.
But in excess, even the person with a strong kapha constitution can find themselves with a vata imbalance.
6 Ways to Reduce Social Anxiousness and Cope When it Hits
After you’ve become aware of what social anxiousness is and when it might bubble up for you, you can shift your attention toward reducing and managing it. Bear in mind, this is a general guide to get you started.
If what you’re experiencing is ongoing or is interfering with your ability to function, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.
1. Know your comforts and use them.
Whether it’s wearing your coziest sweater, eating food you know you can digest well, or attending events with your best friend by your side, sticking to what’s familiar will help you stay grounded. Uncertainties and unknown variables become less disruptive when you’re physically comfortable and mentally at ease.
2. Visualize the party or event.
Many nervous feelings come as a result of the unknown or ideas about what could happen. Try a meditation where you imagine yourself at the holiday event.
First, visualize a version where things don’t go well. How do you feel? Then, visualize one that goes off without a hitch. How does this feel?
Imagining yourself in the social situation that concerns you can help you feel prepared for anything. And more often than not, this can help us to realize that even the worst-case scenario probably wouldn’t be so bad.
3. Kindly decline.
There’s something to be said for stepping out of your comfort zone, yet there are situations that may seem so provoking that the most empowering thing you can do is decline the invitation.
Not to mention, using discretion when RSVPing to invites will help prevent you from overbooking yourself and give you an opportunity to practice clear and healthy boundaries. Ayurveda is all about balance, including a healthy balance of yeses and nos.
4. Breathe to ground.
Using grounding breathwork like Nadi Shodhana pranayama can be used to keep your anxiousness at bay. Paying attention to your breath can also be beneficial if you find yourself unraveling in real-time, even mid-conversation.
Simply slow down and deepen your breath and bring awareness to your feet, your literal connection to the earth element. If needed, you can excuse yourself, go into the bathroom for a few breaths, and then return to the conversation.
5. Take time to journal and unwind.
A component of unpacking social anxiousness includes the replay of conversations and things that happened during the event. To trip the cycle and keep yourself from simmering in insecure feelings, journal after the event as a form of healthy mental processing.
Write about what happened, who was there, and what emotions you experienced. The more you get out on paper, the less will remain swirling around in your mind.
6. Keep vata dosha in check.
The holidays are impeccably timed with the height of vata season. One of the most effective things you can do to reduce feelings of anxiousness overall is knowing what things increase and decrease vata—even the factors that seem entirely unrelated in the moment.
These tips will help keep vata—and feelings of anxiousness—in check.
- Return to your daily routine. Holidays typically cause us to shift out of our daily routine, which aggravates vata and can cause further susceptibility to feelings of social anxiousness. Choose a few things you can do to stay anchored, such as eating and sleeping at consistent times, using your tongue cleaner every morning, or oiling your feet at night.
- Reduce or avoid stimulants. Treats and libations are plentiful during most holiday festivities, but consumption of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol will only make you more vulnerable to vata imbalances. Enjoy with moderation.
- Sit to eat rather than grazing. Standing, mingling, and eating is a standard combination at holiday parties. Yet vata dosha increases with any type of multi-tasking, including eating. When possible, sit down to eat and have a complete meal rather than snacking.
- Listen more. Talking is a function of vata dosha. Playing the role of listener will help you conserve your energy and help you stay focused and calm. Additionally, it will decrease any social anxiousness that comes from fear of saying the wrong thing. Listening more not only means talking less, it also leads to more authentic and intentional speech.