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how to deal with anxiety at Thanksgiving

How to Deal with Social Anxiety at Thanksgiving

If you're one of the millions of Americans who suffer from social anxiety, the thought of dealing with extended family at Thanksgiving can be daunting. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), social anxiety, commonly referred to as "social phobia," affects 6.8% of all individuals in the United States annually. Of them, 29.9% of the cases are considered "serious."

Words and actions are exaggerated in social anxiety, and individuals worry that even the tiniest comment or action will significantly impact how others see them. People with this sort of anxiety may avoid attending events that others find enjoyable because their worries can become crippling.

As Thanksgiving 2022 approaches, families all around the United States are preparing to share love and appreciation with family and friends. But how can you enjoy the occasion and let these good sensations show if being around people gives you such anxiety?

In this blog, we'll look at some strategies that could help you keep social anxiety under control so you can start to unwind a bit and enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving.

1. Turn the anxiety into excitement

When you experience a wave of terror, switch to an aroused state of mind. You might use the phrase "I'm excited" as a mantra to remind yourself of this. Or, you might be more precise, tricking yourself into thinking you're excited about a future occasion or circumstance. For instance, you can plan a hike or an online shopping trip.

Doing this can deceive your brain into believing that your worry is a feeling of heightened anticipation before a joyous event. This method is referred to as "reappraisal" in scientific terminology.

Reevaluating your feelings can be beneficial, at least in the short term, in dealing with situations that generate anxiety, according to an article that was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

2. Prepare in Advance before the Thanksgiving Day

It's usually a good idea to undertake some mental and practical preparation if you already know that you'll need to be around many people, including relatives you haven't seen in months or years or new girlfriends and boyfriends you've never even seen.

For instance, you could do something fun and calm, like breathing exercises or meditation. Research indicates that mindfulness and meditation can help people feel less stressed and anxious.

Take a slow, deep breath in a while, perhaps counting to five, and feel the air fill your belly as a helpful breathing exercise for anxiety. Then, exhale slowly, feeling your chest and abdomen empty as you do so. Repeat this several times until you feel less tension in your body and more at peace.

You should make a list of possible conversation starters beforehand. You won't have to worry about your performance if you can get people talking about themselves, including their families, pets, careers, projects, and other things.

According to research, those who struggle with social anxiety may overthink how they could come across to others. Some of that overwhelming self-consciousness can be diffused by turning the attention to other people and finding out what they've been up to, what they enjoy, or what they have planned for the weekend.

3. Be in the moment, be curious

In the context of a Thanksgiving meal, you could accomplish this by paying conscious attention to the food — how it tastes, how it smells, and what its texture is like — as well as by listening to the conversations of other guests and being open to noticing small or surprising details in your surroundings. Specifically, you could do this by paying attention to how the food tastes, smells, and texture.

Another study published in the journal Neuron discovered that curiosity engages with our brain's reward circuitry. When we are curious about something, we gain pleasure from researching it more. This is because the brain releases dopamine, the "feel-good hormone."

4. Remember, you’re in charge

At the end of the day, you must learn to accept everything. Remember that you may always escape and go home if you feel exhausted from mingling and being around many people.

If your emotions become out of control, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends "stepping back" and "taking a time-out." Giving it your best effort is sufficient, and it is crucial to know when it would be better to spend some quality alone.

If you're concerned that leaving the party early won't make your family too happy, remember that it's perfectly acceptable to admit that you need space. For example, admitting you're tired won't hurt you and will make it obvious that it's time for you to leave.

5. Make sure you have a ‘job’ to do on the Thanksgiving Day

As a result, when you arrive at the Thanksgiving dinner party, assign yourself a useful task, such as setting the table, checking on the turkey, doing the dishes, or decorating the dessert. This will keep you occupied and help you escape the event's crowds.

Additionally, studies have shown that doing a good deed for another person increases pleasure and lowers stress.

The ventral striatum, a part of the brain associated with happiness and the reward cycle, is activated by acts of generosity and selflessness, according to research cited by Medical News Today.

Get Counselling for Anxiety at Impact Family

Despite your best efforts, you may find that social anxiety disorder rears its ugly head during the holidays. The key is not to let it ruin your holiday season. Remember that you are not alone in feeling this way; there are people who understand what you’re going through.


If you need help with social anxiety, please contact us at Impact Family Christian Counseling Network at (305) 928-2295. We offer to counsel for anxiety and can help you get through this tough time. Start your intake session today.