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Have you got FOGO? How to cope with social anxiety at Christmas

by Maureen Rice
Have you got FOGO? How to cope with social anxiety at Christmas
Image: Getty Images

Find out how to alleviate the fear of going out this party season. 

Do you remember last year and the grimness of lockdown Christmas? ‘Next year’, we promised ourselves, ‘we’ll celebrate like never before to make up for it!’

But with concern over Omicrom, recent government figures suggest that our longing for lockdown to end has not been matched by our behaviour. Our daily contact levels are less than half of what they were before the pandemic, while research by Relate last year found that up to 40% of us were still feeling nervous about socialising.

Is it any wonder? Researchers at Cambridge University have found that levels of anxiety during the pandemic have increased overall. As Covid continues its spread, many of us also feel confused about what is and isn’t ‘normal’ or ‘safe’ behaviour. And after over a year of restricted contacts, it’s to be expected that we might feel rusty and awkward about new social encounters. So, how are we going to handle this year’s holiday season, with its hopeful flurry of get-togethers?  How do we reconnect without feeling overwhelmed or anxious?

Dr Lynne Henderson, author of The Shyness Workbook (Robinson, £16.99), says we should remember that we are not alone. ‘We’ve all been affected, and we all feel the same.’ For her, and for mindfulness coach Nina Stephenson-Camps, this return to socialising offers us a chance for more honest, authentic relationships. This means being truthful about how we feel, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, and choosing our socialising carefully. ‘Don’t go back to normal,’ says Nina, ‘go back to better than normal.’

How to reconnect this Christmas:


Go at your own pace, and tell people what is and isn’t comfortable for you.


Being honest and vulnerable transforms social relationships.


When you feel anxious, take a deep breath in, hold for a moment, then slowly release. Repeat three times.


If you are anxious about crowds or travel, suggest alternatives. Remember that you are not responsible for everyone else’s feelings.


Lockdown caused many of us to reassess our lives and relationships. Focus on the connections you really value and have the courage to release the people and things that no longer serve you.

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