All articles in NSAC’s social anxiety blog are written by actual human beings, not artificial intelligence. Our authors are all mental health clinicians who have expertise in evidence-based treatment for social anxiety disorder, and who are affiliated with NSAC Regional Clinics and Associates.


The holiday season is upon us. With roots in sacred beliefs and cultural traditions, it is historically a very special time of year, and one where families and friends gather together to share the merriment. To mark the season, old songs such as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” sung by Andy Williams play on the radio, reminding listeners of this happy and exciting time of year. Yet, for those with social anxiety disorder, the increased pressures and expectations of social gatherings, celebrations, and office parties make it the most terrifying time of year.

If you are like many of those who are struggling with social anxiety this season, you may find yourself in a heightened state of anxious symptoms and thoughts. You might be engaging in avoidance, self-criticism and negative comparison to others. Far from seeing this as the most wonderful time of the year, you might find yourself just wishing the season away. Instead, here are some suggestions that may be helpful.


1. Kindness: Exercise kindness in your self-talk. Most of us would be a lot kinder in our approach when speaking with or giving advice to a friend than we are when we engage in self-talk. Dr. Judith Beck (2021) encourages her patients to talk to themselves as they would to a friend. Dr. Kristen Neff (2003) wrote about self-compassion, which includes self-kindness. Such strategies have the effect of not only softening negative emotions but increasing motivation. An added bonus is that researchers found higher self-compassion was linked to lower social anxiety (Blackie & Kocovski, 2018).

2. Values: Think about your values. Russ Harris (2019) reminds us that values are “what really matters in the big picture: your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave and what you want to do” (p. 3). Keep this in mind as you strive on. People are not likely to regret doing what really matters and living by those values.

3. Advantages: Consider the advantages. Ask yourself, “Why it is important to engage socially?” Why might it be important to you to show up at a family party, to see an elderly grandparent, or to make an appearance at a work function? If you decide the advantages of going outweigh the disadvantages, then keep these in mind. Refer to a list of advantages to keep yourself on track if your motivation wanes.

the black family celebrating

4. Meaning: Connect to a deeper meaning of the holiday events. Often there might be religious significance, family importance, or making of memories. Take that deeper dive into the meaning of the holiday season, and you may find that there is much that aligns with values, beliefs, heritage, history, and for some a sense of gratitude and awe.

5. Setting Limits: If you are overwhelmed, pick and choose. Resist the urge to give up when you feel overwhelmed by social obligations and demands and remember the small steps count. Maybe you don’t need to spend the entire day or evening at a social event. Perhaps showing up for dessert or doing a drive-by will suffice. Remember that every step counts. Give yourself credit.

6. Preparation: Prepare in advance. Think of a topic or two that you might discuss with relatives or friends you have not seen in a while. Resist the pressure to over-prepare. Think about a question or two you might ask them, and maybe one or two things you might update them about. Common areas of interest are also good to consider.

7. Compliments: Offer the gift of a compliment. It is estimated that 90% of people value compliments, yet only 50% give them. According to research, “people misestimate their compliments’ value to others, and so they refrain from engaging in this prosocial behavior” (Boothby & Bohns, 2021). Consider offering a compliment or two, even if you feel awkward doing so. According to the research, it may make you feel good as well.

a group of people toasting at a party

8. Acts of Kindness: Consider doing acts of kindness. Step out by helping or doing favors. You might lend a hand putting food out or cleaning up at a party. You might offer to assist a neighbor who is struggling to put out the trash or a fellow shopper at the market whose cart is stuck. Engaging in kind actions can make you feel better. In fact, it might affect your social anxiety. Researchers found that those who performed kind acts had increased relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance goals (Aldan & Trew, 2013).

9. CBT Strategies: Rely on proven cognitive-behavioral therapy strategies. Use techniques for dealing with social anxiety that are founded in evidence-based practice. Don’t forget to look at past blog articles and resources from our NSAC website. You will find excellent examples of how to deal with difficult thoughts and emotions, and to help you on the road to living a full life.

10. Learning Experience: Remember everything is a learning experience. As you take more time to practice and deal with social anxiety in every season of the year, take time to pause and ask yourself, “What did I learn?” It may be helpful to jot down some quick notes in a notebook and refer back. Learning and discovering what happens each time you are an active participant is one way to build confidence about future social events.


The holidays are a time for celebration and giving. Why not give yourself the biggest gift of acceptance, patience, and kindness as you approach these gatherings! My wish is that you accept these gifts and begin the new year with a renewed spirit of HOPE. With continued practice you may discover a wonderful season of hope and joy that is within your reach to enjoy!

Alden, L. E., & Trew, J. L. (2013). If it makes you happy: engaging in kind acts increases positive affect in socially anxious individuals. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 13(1), 64–75.

Beck, J. S. (2020). Cognitive behavior therapy (3rd ed.). Guilford Press.

Blackie, R. A., & Kocovski, N. L. (2018). Examining the relationships among self-compassion, social anxiety, and post-event processing. Psychological Reports, 121(4), 669–689.

Boothby, E. J., & Bohns, V. K. (2021). Why a Simple Act of Kindness Is Not as Simple as It Seems: Underestimating the Positive Impact of Our Compliments on Others. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 47(5), 826–840.

Harris, R. (2019). ACT made simple (2nd ed.). New Harbinger.

Neff, K. D. (2003). Self-Compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85-102.