Supporting Employees with Social Anxiety During Holiday Gatherings

Supporting Employees with Social Anxiety During Holiday Gatherings

  December 1, 2023

SEB Marketing Team

As the holiday season approaches, the air is filled with festive cheer and the promise of joyous gatherings. However, it’s important for HR professionals to recognize that the holiday season doesn’t evoke the same sentiments in everyone. For employees grappling with social anxiety, festive events can be a source of stress and discomfort. Having some strategies can help make the season more enjoyable.

Anxiety can come in all shapes and sizes. Some might be concerned with eating and drinking in front of others. For others it might be spending time with family. And for many, hyper-focusing on having the “perfect” holiday can be overwhelming. Work parties are meant to be a place to gather and enjoy making a connection with others.  

There are a lot of expectations around holidays – to show up, be social, drink, etc. and for someone who has social anxiety this can be overwhelming. Having some strategies on hand can help.  Here are some suggestions that you can share with your employees to ensure great holiday season for all:

  • Have a plan: no matter the setting, have a plan that honours what you can handle. Social events are great for connecting but they can divert from long-term goals. Saying, “no” during gatherings can be a powerful tool to keep you feeling safe and making good choices for yourself.
  • For drinking: drinking should feel like a choice, not an obligation. Prepare yourself for the pressure by having a statement ready, such as, “Thanks. I’m not drinking tonight.” Also, having a water or seltzer on hand. If you are drinking, be sure not to pressure anyone else into having a drink with you.
  • Talking points: Having a few topics on hand that you enjoy can help ease the sometimes awkwardness of engaging in conversation. You can accomplish this by either coming up with some topics or choosing to wear or bring something interesting that you can focus a conversation on. Need help? Consider the game “Talking Point”, an icebreaker game with cards that can be placed around the room to help attendees engage and have fun.
  • Seek to make a connection: In a world that increasing has more superficial interactions on the Internet, connecting in person might be a challenge. This holiday season try the LOVE strategy (listen, observe, value, engage) to create connection with others. And, of course, leading with generosity always helps.

Holiday gatherings can unintentionally create stress for individuals struggling with drinking or eating habits that negatively impact their lives and their mental health. Offering plenty of drink options both non-alcoholic and alcoholic, and a variety of foods can reduce the stress of worrying if there is an appropriate option. And one less thing to worry about during the holidays is a present in itself.

The holiday season is an opportunity for HR professionals to showcase their commitment to employee wellbeing. With just a few simple adjustments and considerations your team can create a festive environment where everyone can let loose and have a great time.