Is angst your party plus-one?

Follow these tips to keep calm over the festive season, says Vicki-Marie Cossar

Butterflies: Social occasions can be a source of dread

DECEMBER. The month where it’s perfectly acceptable to party every night. But for some, this brings the very real fear of social anxiety, one of the most common anxiety disorders, according to the NHS.

‘You’re convinced you’re going to look a fool and feel sick with dread that everyone will judge you,’ says Claire Eastham, author of We’re All Mad Here: The No-Nonsense Guide To Living With Social Anxiety.

‘You feel like you’re going mad, worrying about everything, wondering what you sound like and what you look like,’ says Claire. ‘The voice in your head is constant. It’s exhausting.’

Claire offers suggestions on how to navigate social situations in her book, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your social diary, here are her top tips to see you through the festive period.

The office Christmas party

1 Go to social situations that make you feel uncomfortable — but in small doses. It will help you prepare for what’s to come.

2 Research from Harvard University says power poses can help you feel more confident. Beyoncé does them on stage. Do them before you enter a room. Stand tall with your hands on your hips.

3 Don’t make a beeline for the boss; look for small groups around the edges as they probably feel awkward, too.

Meeting the in-laws

1 Coffee increases the heart rate and cortisol levels (the stress hormone), so lower your intake throughout the day.

2 If you overthink things before an event, spend the day wrapping Christmas presents or something like knitting a scarf. It will keep your mind focused on something positive.

3 Part of the burden of social anxiety is the secrecy of it, so tell your partner you’re feeling nervous and make a plan so they can deflect attention away from you if it gets too much.

New Year’s Eve house party

1 Text a friend or family member for words of encouragement and three reasons why you’re awesome.

2 Don’t be late. This will only increase the heart rate and leave you flustered.

3 It might sound lame but pre-plan some opening lines. No one’s relying on you to keep the conversation going all night but being able to chat casually will put you at ease.

A date

1 People with social anxiety get excess adrenaline, so burn it off at the gym.

2 Many people find the journey the most stressful part, as sitting on a bus or train gives the brain lots of time to worry. Keep it busy by reading or playing an app.

3 Be the first to arrive. That way, you have time to mentally decompress and get settled. Plus, your date won’t have to watch you walk across the room.

For more information visit weallmadhere.com or anxietyuk.org.uk