Christmas is a time for gift giving, but it can also be responsible for gift anxiety. The pressure to have a Hallmark Holiday is rampant, and choosing the "perfect gift" can leave people living with social anxiety feeling distinctly uncomfortable.

Does the thought of tackling your shopping list leave you feeling symptoms like sweaty palms, a nervous stomach, heart palpitations or a headache?

Do you tell yourself that you "should" be feeling joy at the prospect of giving and that these feelings are bad or wrong?

Feelings Are Valid

How you feel about giving gifts is never bad or wrong. Your feelings are valid. If shopping for gifts or the idea of giving them feels awkward, then that's how you happen to feel. It doesn't mean you can't do anything to help yourself feel a bit more comfortable, though.

Identify what Makes You Feel Uncomfortable

Your first step in feeling less anxious about gift giving is to identify what it is about this activity that makes you feel awkward.

· Are you concerned you won't be able to pick out an appropriate gift?
· Do you think that your gift has to be unique or creative to be appreciated?
· Would you feel awkward about handing someone a gift?
· Are you worried that you don't know what to say if someone gives you a gift?

Take Steps Toward the Situation Causing your Anxiety

Once you know what's making you uncomfortable, you can start to take baby steps toward approaching the situation. Closing the gap between yourself and what causes the anxiety is how you will eventually control the panic attached to choosing Christmas gifts. If you're concerned about your gift-giving abilities, you could ask someone you know for suggestions for the people on your list.

Look online for lists of suggestions for Christmas gift giving. You'll find plenty of lists for Dads, Moms, kids, teens, geeks, etc. Check out reviews of popular games, movies, CDs, toys, gadgets, small appliances and wines for more ideas.

Gifts don't have to be creative or unique to be meaningful. Practical gifts are appreciated too - and many people actually anticipate receiving similar gifts each year as part of their Christmas tradition.

If you're concerned about how you'd feel about handing someone a gift, practice this situation in your mind: Think of what you could say when giving someone a gift. Prepare more than one simple phrase to use. It doesn't have to be anything fancy; A simple "Merry Christmas" will suffice.

In a situation where you're concerned that you'll have a problem because you won't behave appropriately if someone gives you a gift, practice saying a few short phrases before Christmas. "Thank you." "This is great." "I really like it, thanks."

You can say one of them at the time and then send the giver of the gift a thank you note if you find that you can express yourself more easily in writing. This will give you more time to think about what you would like to say without the pressure of feeling as though you have one or more people looking at you and waiting for a response.

Try to Focus on the Recipient When Giving Gifts

Keep in mind that people like receiving gifts because it's actually fun to open a brightly colored package (you know this). They enjoy the surprise factor and the fact that someone cared enough about them to get them a gift.

When you give someone a gift at Christmas, watch how they react when they open it. Try to calmly observe their expression without adding your own internal dialogue about what you think they're experiencing. Try not to judge what you're seeing; just let the experience unfold.

More than likely, you'll see someone enjoying themselves. The other people in the room will be excited to see what's in the package, too. No one will be judging the gift or the giver (you) at all.

Remember the Joys of the Season

The true joys of the Christmas season have a lot to do with spending time with family and friends and hopefully, making memories that can be treasured long after the day itself has faded away. Many people would be hard pressed to remember exactly what gifts they received at Christmas from one year to the next.

They do, however, remember the warm feelings they got from knowing that someone thought enough of them to give them one.