The holidays are just around the corner. Here are some easy, simple tips to help ease your social anxiety during holiday gatherings.

1. Smile, Smile, Smile! A genuine smile increases your production of serotonin, the "feel-good" hormone. Smiling has been proven to relax you and put you in a better mood. It's a natural anxiety-buster!

What's more, smiling bonds us with others. It makes us appear friendlier, more interested, and more appealing. Babies as young as three weeks old already recognize smiling as a bonding behavior.

So, smile and show us those pearly whites!

2. Give Yourself Permission to Feel Bored. Let's face it -- social gatherings can be a drag at first. It can take several hours for the mood to build and the "fun factor" to really kick in. 

Don't leave the party simply because it's a little boring and you feel anxious at the moment. Allow yourself to simply BE. Sometimes that can mean allowing yourself to feel bored for a while and realizing that it's OK. Wait it out.  

Remember, a party's success is a group effort. It's not all up to you. Folks with social anxiety often forget that important fact.

Gatherings that start out slow usually pick up once the meal is served, the music gets lively, or the guests have a few hours to unwind and get to know each other better. You might be surprised at how much fun you'll have if you stay!

3. Help Out. Offer to arrange tables, serve food, take photos, or another helpful task. Helping out is a great way to keep busy while making the party more enjoyable for you and the other guests. It's also a great way to meet people!

4. Show Interest in Others. A simple way to feel less anxious is to take your focus off of your anxiety and move your attention outward. Show interest in the people around you.  

Maybe you've always wanted to ask your grandma how she and your grandpa met. Maybe you've seen a co-worker in the hall and always wondered in which department she works. Maybe you'd like to know how your neighbor keeps his lawn so green. Make eye contact and simply ASK. 

5. Find a Fun Niche. I love animals, so whenever I go to a party I enjoy spending time with the four-legged members of the household, as well as the human ones.

Take some time to play with the pets, peruse the bookcases, admire the artwork, check out the music collection, or enjoy the garden. In addition to the enjoyment you'll get from doing these activities, you'll get the opportunity to bond with others with similar interests. 

6. Take a Healthy Snack. Holiday meals can be a real challenge when you're working to reduce your anxiety. Although fried foods, refined white flour products, and sugary treats are yummy, they can spell anxiety when eaten in large quantities, or not eaten in proper combinations. 
Take a healthy snack in your purse or jacket as a back-up plan, just in case there aren't healthy alternatives to choose from at the party. I take a granola bar containing fiber, whole grains, and lots of protein with me at all times, just in case. The snack can also tide you over when you've gone three hours or more since your last meal. If you feel self-conscious about eating in public, go outside to eat. Or excuse yourself for a few minutes and eat in the bathroom.

7. Share Something about Yourself. Think of one fact you'd like people at the gathering to know about you that they may not already know. Maybe you want to share the fact that you got an "A" on that term paper. Or that you love science fiction movies. Or that you get nervous at parties.

Share something that shows who you are now, and make sure it's something that you feel comfortable sharing. Speaking up gives people an opportunity to know you better and strengthens your bond. 

By the way, don't wait for people to ask you questions. Speak up. While some people will ask you about yourself, others will wait for you to offer information about yourself because they've been brought up to think it's rude to ask you. Strike up a conversation and be yourself. 

8. Balance "Group" Time with "Me" Time. Spending many hours in a group setting can feel overwhelming, especially when you're not used to it. Take a break and give yourself some time alone every few hours. Take a walk around the block. Do a few minutes of deep breathing. Call home to check on things. You'll appreciate your group time more when you take occasional breaks to help you stay grounded.

Try one -- or several -- of these tips at your next holiday gathering. Get ready to have some fun!

Author's Bio: 

Deanne Repich, founder and director of the National Institute of Anxiety and Stress, Inc., is an internationally known anxiety educator, teacher, and former sufferer. Tens of thousands of anxiety sufferers have sought her expertise to help them create anxiety-free lives. She is the creator of the Conquer Anxiety Success Program, author of more than ninety articles, and hosts the Anxiety-Free Living radio show.

Deanne is also co-author of the "101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life," published by

Despite almost twenty years of suffering from several anxiety disorders, Deanne, a B.A. from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with graduate studies in learning theory at the University of Texas at Austin, has overcome many obstacles to discover lasting freedom from anxiety. Now she shows others how to do the same. Known for her user-friendly approach to conquering anxiety, Deanne offers answers that pop off the page and empower you to take control now.

With a 12+ year background as a teacher and trainer in public schools, private schools, and Fortune 500 companies, Deanne shares her knack for transforming complex information into easy-to-understand language. Her articles have appeared on,, and other leading health web sites. She is a member of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA).

No matter where you are in the process of conquering your anxiety, Deanne is here to guide you with a wealth of helpful information, motivation, and support. When she’s not educating others about anxiety, Deanne enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband in Pflugerville, Texas.