The Holidays Can Be Hard When You're An Introvert -- But Here's How To Survive

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
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When you think of the holiday season, you probably think of bright lights running along people’s rooftops, radio stations overplaying that horrid “Baby It’s Cold Outside” song that’s been redone 800 times, and Christmas decorations falling off the shelves at Target. And, especially if you’re an introvert, you probably think of all the peopling you’ll have to do.

So. Much. Peopling.

It can be exhausting and actually ruin this time of year for you (it’s supposed to be a happy time, dammit!) because of excessive small-talk and questions about your job and your hair and when you’re going to have more kids or why you have so many kids. Aunt Nancy will drink too much wine and fall into the coffee table again while her husband Bill talks about all the “mergers and acquisitions” his “big company” is doing that no one has heard of.

And you stand there, fake-smiling, trying to catch Aunt Nancy in time, and searching the room for the nearest exit or for a magical clock that speeds up time so you can say “Man, it’s getting late! Thanks for having me!” but the actual clock says you’ve only been there for 16 minutes and you want to cry.

The thing is, oftentimes introverts do want to spend time with family and friends. Just not for 20 straight hours or an entire weekend with no break. Or at one event after another after another. So how do you do it? How do you make sure the holidays don’t completely suck the life out of you? By taking care of yourself and your needs—that’s how. Here are a few tips.

1. Hide.

Take breaks in the bathroom, go outside, or even to the store for “something important you forgot.” Have a “work thing” that requires your attention on your phone or computer. Just find a way to escape, temporarily, even if only for a few minutes. Take a breath, recharge, and go back in.

2. Have excuses (whether true or not true—no one needs to know) about why you can’t stay long.

Show up late (sorry, my 3-year-old would NOT put his shoes on!) and announce that you have to leave early (ugh, I have to go see my great uncle Steve…).

3. Blame it on the kids.

If you have kids, you have an out. Always. If they’re young, they can be “tired,” maybe they “skipped nap,” or are “teething.” If they’re older, don’t they have a school performance tonight? Or at least rehearsal for it?

4. Plan carefully.

Don’t plan back-to-back social events. If you have something Friday night, reserve Saturday to decompress. Or, if you have a day commitment, make sure you have nothing on your calendar for that evening so you can come home, put on comfy clothes, and sit in the aloneness.

5. Online shopping, more online shopping, and more online shopping.

I’m pretty sure online shopping was invented by an introvert tired of making small talk in the cashier line. Nowadays the introvert can shop for Christmas without ever leaving the house.

6. Get an emotional support buddy to help you.

Find the person who knows how hard peopling is for you and team up. That person can ask you to “help them with something outside” or send you to the store because “Darn! We are out of butter.”

7. If people offer to take your kids, let them.

When Grandma asks to take them shopping or to the movies or a friend comes over and reads a book with your child in the playroom, enjoy this alone time. You deserve it. Soak it up and use it as fuel to get through the next round of small-talk coming your way.

8. Remind yourself that it’s okay to say no.

You don’t have to do all the things. Write that down on a post-it and stick it to your mirror. Do you have to attend your partner’s work party? Isn’t your kid feeling a little under the weather? That’s what I thought. So sad to miss!

9. Try to find one-on-one time with family and friends.

Large groups can be overwhelming, even with people you love. But offering to help your dad with the dishes or your mom set the table may give you a break from the noise of the living room and a chance for some one-on-one conversation that can be less taxing.

10. Offer to “help” with jobs that let you be alone.

What? There are 46 presents to wrap downstairs? ON IT. Need someone to shovel the snow off the front walk? Let me get my boots.

11. Prep for conversations ahead of time.

It’s easy to get flustered by all the questions about who you’re dating and what made you chop your hair so short. So spend some time beforehand anticipating some of these conversations and practicing your answers. Also, think of a few deflecting questions like “So how is Michael liking middle school?” that can get the attention off of you.

12. Set goals and limits.

Goals like “I will talk to at least three people” and limits like “I will stay for 90 minutes” will help you get through the event. Also, don’t carpool! Take your own car or Uber so you aren’t stuck there with super-social Kevin who just set up beer pong.

The holiday season for an introvert can often feel like an exhausting performance—like you’re on stage the whole time, pretending to be this other social, funny version of yourself in a show you never auditioned or signed up for. So try these tips that will allow you to still spend some QT with the fam, but also take care of you—because you deserve a joyous holiday just as much as everyone else.

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