Sunday Scaries

How to manage the holiday season when you're an introvert

“This type of structure can provide relief for introverts.”

woman at party
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With Thanksgiving behind us, we’ve made it to the most wonderful time of the year — or is it? The holiday season seems blissful for some, but December’s demands are stressful for others. Hosting family, attending parties, and making small talk can be fun — they are also some of the things people dread most at this time of year.

The holidays can be especially challenging for more introverted people. Extroverts tend to enjoy a boost in mood after socializing, but introverts often experience the opposite. After spending time with others, introverts often seek out alone time to recharge their social battery.

There is no one type of introvert — social introverts experience introversion differently than anxious introverts, for example. And research also shows that a brief excursion into extroversion can cause introverted people to feel positive emotions.

If you want to go to that holiday party but are nervous about your social stamina, there are certain actions you can take before and after that may help.

An introvert’s guide to the holidays

“Remind yourself that you are brave if you take part, even while feeling anxious.”

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A practical first step is to put the events you’ve been invited to on your calendar. Next, “ask yourself if it is realistic and reasonable for you to attend all of the events you have listed,” says therapist Alyssa Mancao. If the answer is “no,” then it’s okay to politely decline a few invitations.

Mancao also recommends setting your own time limit. Before you head to an event, decide how long you will stay and what time you plan to leave. “Listen to your body when you are beginning to cross the line of being overwhelmed, and take a break before it is too late,” Mancao says.

Psychologist Melanie Badali recommends focusing on opportunities: What are you looking forward to? Maybe you’re excited to see an old friend, or maybe you can’t wait for the food. Leaning into positive anticipation can help with your mindset going into your holiday party.

Maintaining balance is key: Challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone can be in your best interest, Badali says. But it’s also important to be compassionate with yourself.

“Remind yourself that you are brave if you take part, even while feeling anxious,” she says. “Being brave isn’t about the absence of fear, it’s about feeling afraid and doing something anyway. Remind yourself of your reasons for going, lower your expectations for your ‘performance’ at the party, and budget some recovery time after.”

How to charge your social battery

If you find yourself overwhelmed in social situations, a little prep might help. For example, if you’re nervous about being asked questions on sensitive topics, “prepare to be assertive by setting limits” says psychologist Joel Minden.

“Pinpoint the problem you anticipate and consider what you could do to prepare for a better outcome,” says Minden. “For example, if you have trouble getting out of extended conversations, plan to extricate yourself by saying you want to help out the host or that you need to chat with another guest before they leave.”

Mancao says that prioritizing events and deciding how much time you want to allocate to each can help. “This type of structure can provide relief for introverts because they will have a plan of action,” she says.

“Think about budgeting your time and energy like you would budget your money.”

She also recommends engaging in some positive self-talk. Set realistic expectations for how your holiday gatherings might go, and make goals for the night. Maybe your goal is to talk to one or two people at the event, or maybe it’s simply feeling comfortable if you find yourself alone for a moment at the party.

You can also estimate your social battery capacity and decide how to budget it over the season, Badali says.

“Think about budgeting your time and energy like you would budget your money,” Badali says. “You will need short-term and long-term strategies.”

For example, there might be a party that you worry will make you feel exhausted — but it could be a “good long-term investment of energy in terms of developing or maintaining social connections,” Badali says.

How to restore your social battery

When you get home after your holiday gathering, it can be helpful to focus on yourself and the things you enjoy the most, says Minden. If you find yourself overly stimulated by social activities, it can help to engage in a relaxation action afterward — like reading, yoga, or a walk outside.

Badali’s favorite definition of self-care is “taking care of yourself like you would take care of a loved one.” Be considerate of your needs, and don’t make yourself feel bad about what can help. There’s nothing wrong with asking for some alone time when you get home and putting on a movie.

She also recommends reflecting on what went well.

“After a party, try to think of three good things about the party,” she says. “If you write them down, you can refer back to them before the next party and look for opportunities for comfort and joy.”

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