When Thanksgiving Comes with a Helping of Social Anxiety

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While Canadians have already had their Thanksgiving festivities, Thursday marks the arrival of American Thanksgiving.  For pregnant women who live with social anxiety, it can include an extra challenge. While people who live with social anxiety can find any of holiday gathering challenging, tackling dinners and parties while pregnant seems to add another dimension. People are happy and excited for you and everyone seems to want to know your business. Are you sleeping? Any morning sickness? Does your back hurt? What’s your delivery plan? What are you going to name the baby? Do you know the gender? It’s enough to make anyone scream, “Enough!”

Compounding the problem may be perfectionist tendencies. Many people who live with social anxiety are especially hard on themselves. In their quest to have everything “just right” they sometimes magnify small social faux pas into something monumental. So how to deal with all of this without just declaring yourself unable to travel and staying home? Here are a few tips:

  • Examine expectations. Other’s perceived expectations of you, as well as your own expectations of yourself, can generate anxiety. Instead, ask yourself what is realistic under the circumstances.
  • Check yourself. What is your internal conversation about the holidays? Are you imagining worst-case scenarios? Jotting these thoughts down in a journal will help you examine them and find more realistic ways of approaching the event.
  • Give perfectionism the boot. Many people with social anxiety feel that they have to be flawless or no one will want them around. Or, they replay the family event over and over again in their mind – long after it’s finished. Take a moment to realize that your family and friends want to celebrate being together, not a flawless dinner. Anyone who says otherwise is dealing with their own perfectionist demons.
  • Use the buddy system. Having someone who will be your emotional “wingman” and help you deal with difficult relatives and tricky conversations can be a great comfort. Doing the same in return for them will help build your self-confidence.
  • Find a safe space. One of the great things about being pregnant is that no one can blame you if you have to go put your feet up for a few minutes. So stake out a corner of a bedroom for when you need to retreat and recharge.
  • Cut the sweets. Holidays are notorious for getting healthy eating off track, which means indigestion as well as turning your blood sugar into a roller coaster ride. By staying hydrated and eating sensibly you can prevent additional discomfort.
  • Ask for help. One of the great things about holiday gatherings is that the people in attendance care about you. Sure, they may be overbearing at times, but if you communicate and let them know that you need help they will gladly oblige.

Bottom line: With a little forethought and planning, navigating holiday gatherings when you are prone to social anxiety can be made manageable. Thanksgiving is no exception. So pace yourself, examine your inner dialog, and don’t be afraid to take a break or even bow out when necessary. And have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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