On its own, social anxiety is bad enough. Add in the holidays with all of the "mandatory" gatherings, and it can be downright crippling.

Dealing with any kind of anxiety is complicated. And when you're wrestling with inner turmoil in social situations, it can be exponentially worse. Here are some coping mechanisms to help you get through the holiday season and the endless parties.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the key is to prepare yourself for stressful situations. Be kind to yourself, and know your limitations before you head out the door.

Have an escape hatch ready.

A babysitter who can't stay past 9 p.m., a mythical pill that has to be given to your cat ... we've all whipped out excuses to duck out of a party early.

Come up with something that will give you an "out" if you need it, even if you have to dash out to another party. No one needs to know that the only guests are you, your pet, and the TV. We won't tell if you don't!

Netflix, mug

Think ahead.

Going to a party should involve three phases: arriving, partying, and leaving. Depending on the crowd, the expectations for that middle part can vary wildly. If there's a big group, don't get overwhelmed; just break it down into manageable goals: hand off a hostess gift, eat something, drink something, talk to three people, and do your rounds to say goodbye. That's it! 

gift, present

If you were invited to a party, chances are, someone wants to open their home to you, and just seeing you there will make them happy. Don't do more than you're comfortable with if there's a huge crowd and you're just not feeling it.

No one noticed—really!

Chances are, people are more concerned with what they have going on to notice if you dripped some cocktail sauce on your pants. Think about it—who is more interesting, someone guzzling straight from the bottle or someone who inadvertently knocked over a nutcracker?

Though it may not feel like it, no one is scrutinizing your every move, so try to have a good time without feeling overly self-conscious. Oh, and carry a stain stick in your pocket just in case.



When you do end up leaving, take a few cleansing breaths and pat yourself on the back. You did it!

Go home and relax, knowing that coming out of your shell is just a little bit easier now.

book, mug

Don't be afraid to say no.

Practice saying, "Thank you, but I can't make it." There's nothing wrong with staying home if you need a break from people. You don't owe anyone any excuses!

During the holidays, it's important to protect your own time off, relax, and simply unwind.

relax, nap, couch

**All of the photos in this article are courtesy of Pexels.

Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate the holiday events you have coming up. Social anxiety isn't fun for anyone, but planning ahead can make gatherings more bearable.

Do you have any strategies for hitting the party circuit with social anxiety? Let us know in the comments!