Ilove the holiday season. It brings people together and creates a level of gratitude that makes us all kinder and more joyful. To me, that alone makes it the most wonderful time of the year. But because I’m an introvert, it also has its challenges.
The holidays tend to have a whirlwind effect that begins on Thanksgiving Day and accelerates through January 1. I used to get caught up in this every year and had a hard time enjoying some of the best moments. I was constantly drained and unable to fully recharge.
I started realizing that it didn’t have to be this way, and made some small adjustments that had big impact.
Here are six strategies to help you navigate time with family, friends, and all of the upcoming holiday parties with boundaries instead of burnout.
Build in recharge time before, during, and after every event.
Gift yourself the recharge time you need before and after any people-focused plans. This ensures that you go into any social or one-on-one situation fully charged, and if you begin to feel depleted in the midst of it, you have the assurance that you’ll get the time you need when it’s over.
You can also create short supercharge moments during the event, depending on the setting. If you’re at a party with someone else, let them know you’ll very likely need a break at some point. Ideally, this provides an explanation in advance so you can slip away for a few moments of solitude, or if that’s not possible, to find their familiar face and a few minutes back inside your comfort zone.
Know when to say no.
There are so many events taking place during the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving, and it’s tempting to attend all of them. But this is a clear path to burnout. Before filling up your calendar completely, take a moment to think about how much you can really handle.
Which events will allow you the recharge time we just talked about? Which ones do you already know will wear you out, given everything else you have going on?
Introverts can hit a wall when we desperately need to recharge, and it’s never good to get there in the middle of a social situation. At that point, we no longer have the ability to be our best selves. Learn your limits and put boundaries on your time to protect your energy all throughout the season.
Create meaningful conversations—with other introverts.
Recent studies show that close to 50% of the U.S. is introverted. This means that at every party or family gathering, almost half of the people there could be fellow introverts feeling exactly the same way you’re feeling: overwhelmed and looking forward to leaving. It also means that they will thrive on the same things as you, including meaningful, one-on-one conversation.
Introverts find small talk draining and exhausting. So use your intuition to find another introvert in the room and initiate conversation, knowing you can quickly cut through the small talk to something that matters to you both.
This can serve as an escape from other potentially draining conversations as well as a mini recharge. It could also lead to a great conversation with someone who may become a close friend.
Shift your focus by making it about others.
It’s easy to do a little wallowing when we feel forced outside of our comfort zone for what can seem like an eternity. Shifting your focus from your discomfort to learning about and from someone else can be the perspective you need.
Before you arrive, make a commitment to operate from a place of love and leave each person you meet better than before. A little more understood, valuable, and definitely heard.
Changing your thoughts from negative “not wanting to be there” resistance to what you can uniquely give to others can significantly impact the way you feel and therefore how you show up. Our thoughts create our feelings and that ultimately creates our result. So, find the positive replacement thought you need to have a mindset of service and pay attention to what changes.
Craft an answer that you care about.
How many times are you asked “What’s new?” or “How have you been?” during the holiday season? These open-ended questions can be overwhelming, or they can create the opportunity to talk about what you care about most.
Before walking into a party filled with family, friends, or people you’ve never met, think through your responses to the questions you’ll be asked most frequently throughout the night. Even if you have no problem coming up with a response right away, giving the same pat answer over and over again can be exhausting.
Developing one that is aligned with your passions can keep you charged longer, and ideally lead to common ground and connection with the one who asked the question.
Give yourself permission to leave early.
When you feel like you’re getting too close to the energy depletion wall, thank the host and go home! There is, of course, the politeness factor to consider, but self-care is equally essential.
Creating an exit strategy could involve taking two cars or planning to Lyft home if your date or friends may not be ready to go when you are. Just knowing you can leave when you need to may conserve some energy throughout the party.
Be sure to set expectations for the ones you’re going with beforehand, to simplify your early exit if you end up needing one, but resist the urge to provide a lengthy explanation. The more confident you are while asking for what you need, the better it will be respected and received.
May this be the most wonderful time of the year.
I encourage you to use these strategies to create a customized plan that will allow you to enjoy every moment of this holiday season—and also gift yourself plenty of time to relax and recharge.