A Therapist Explains Why Introverts Might Dread the Holidays

An introvert at a holiday party

It’s okay to acknowledge that the holiday season brings up feelings of dread for you, even though it appears so many love to celebrate all month long.

The holidays can feel like a fun and festive season for many — the sparkly lights, the music, the celebrations, the feeling of magic in the air, and the refreshing feeling of a reset with the new year approaching. Although there may be a lot to love about the holidays, it can be a trying period of time for introverts. (And I know all of this quite well, as I speak from experience as an introvert myself.)   

There are a couple of key things I notice in my work as a psychotherapist that tend to come up around the holidays for introverts. A central theme is the feeling of pressure that tends to be involved. Introverts love their alone time, recharge time, and home sanctuary, and finding the space for these tends to be more challenging around the holidays. Some of the stress and expectations can bring up feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. Without as much ample time to ground and recharge, this can feel like a lot for introverts. That said, here are some common things introverts dread about the holidays. 

Why Introverts Might Dread the Holidays

1. Too many social obligations, from work parties to family dinners

The parties, the celebrations, the dinners, the gatherings, and all the weeks that make up the holiday season — oh my! This can feel like a bit much when it comes to social time for an introvert’s internal battery.

The anticipation of the parties and social events for the holidays can certainly bring up feelings of dread for the introvert. For many introverts, it’s not that they don’t like socializing and celebrating the holidays. It’s just finding the right balance and dose of social activities that works! It reminds me of the phrase “Everything in moderation.” Too much socializing is going to feel draining for introverts, whereas not socializing at all probably isn’t going to feel good either. (Yes, even introverts get lonely.)

But back to why too many social obligations may feel like too much. First, there’s the number of events. Perhaps it starts with the holiday office party, then a celebration with a group of friends, then celebrations with family (which could be multiple gatherings!), not to mention spending time with your significant other’s family, and maybe another celebration with another group of friends… Oh my goodness! All this packed into a couple of weeks! Whew, as an introvert myself, it makes me tired just thinking about it!

If the gathering is relatively small and for a couple hours at most, that is going to feel okay to us introverts. But when there are many factors out of our control, watch out, like a large number of people and the potential for having to manage multiple small-talk-type conversations. Or not knowing how long the event will last. And then there’s trying to think of an “out” without feeling rude when your inner reserves are saying “Time to go…” All of this is what feels dreadful to introverts.  

2. Houseguests (and less alone time as a result)

Holidays are often associated with spending time with family or friends. You may plan time away to be with people you care about or they may be coming to stay with you. There can be a lot of fun and joy to this experience, but at the same time, the change in routine and reduction in alone time can bring up feelings of dread for introverts. 

Instead of feeling like a visit, it can feel like an unwanted roommate is moving in with you for a while! This can be a huge adjustment for introverts. We want — and need — downtime to relax, recharge, and to just feel like we can be at home with ourselves, especially in light of all the holiday festivities. So when others are in our homes, constantly around, this can be a challenge. 

We may also be making plans for everyone for the length of their stay (that they need to partake in, too) or feel the need to entertain our guests, all of which takes energy. And we may feel the need to be “on” for an extended period of time rather than being able to escape to our introvert havens for a bit. We may even experience feelings of guilt about wanting (and needing) this recharge time while our loved ones are around… yet we may also feel depleted by not getting it. 

There is a lot of inner conflict here to move through, which can be emotionally exhausting in itself! Once the time has ended and we’re able to resume our usual routine, we introverts may also find we need time to recover, as the constant socializing left us with a big “introvert hangover.”

3. Holiday shopping and all the crowds of people everywhere

The malls, the shopping centers, and the stores during the holidays can be dreadful even for those who are not introverts. So, with that being the case, these feelings of dread are amped up even more for us “quiet ones.” The stores can feel overly crowded, chaotic, and as though your personal space is invaded with the hustle and bustle of all the people surrounding you.  And the stressful and anxious energies of all the shoppers can be felt by introverts who may be more sensitive to others’ energies and emotions. It’s certainly not a relaxing experience!

And, in thinking the intention of holiday shopping is to purchase gifts for loved ones, this in itself can create a different type of stress. As introverts tend to be “deep souls,” the same can happen when shopping for gifts. A gift card won’t cut it for many introverts — this almost feels like an equivalent to “small talk” in the realms of gift-giving. Instead, we like to find the perfect gifts that have meaning for those we care about, rather than getting “any old gift.” The process of this can add to the stress we’re already feeling!

However, online shopping can help reduce the stress of buying gifts. No crowds, no salespeople, just peacefully shopping from home in your comfy chair and pajamas. (I highly recommend it!)

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4. All the feels: overwhelm, stress, anxiety, and sadness

In the points above, I’ve touched on different emotions that introverts may experience during the holidays. But I feel this topic also deserves its own point.

The anticipation of the holiday season — and all that comes with it for introverts — can bring up feelings of overwhelm, stress, anxiety, and sadness, even before the season begins! And these aren’t comfortable feelings to experience. A part of you may even be dreading the feelings that the events evoke in you more than the events themselves. And your headspace may team up with your feelings and say things like: “I can’t wait until this is over.” “What is my exit plan going to be at this event?” “One down, three to go.” “I’m so tired, I just want some alone time.” And so on…

Introverts, you can validate what you are feeling. All the social time that the holiday season brings can certainly feel draining for you. And it’s okay to recognize that and honor how you feel.

Where can you set boundaries for yourself as a form of self-care? Maybe it’s limiting the number of guests you have over, stepping away to get some fresh air when you feel overwhelmed, setting time limits for yourself for shopping or at social functions, not saying “yes” to everything out of feeling obligated, and finding ways to give yourself grace. You don’t have to be perfect — and you certainly don’t have to do it all.

Make Sure to Give Yourself the Gift of Recharge Time

So a final message to my fellow introverts: It’s okay to acknowledge that the holiday season can bring up feelings of dread for you, even though it appears so many love to celebrate all month long (including you, in small doses). You are not alone in how you are feeling when you get overwhelmed or need more alone time — so many other introverts are right there with you! 

Just remember: It’s important to identify what you can do to ensure you have self-care time during the holiday season. The holidays are often thought of as a time of giving and receiving, so make sure you are giving and receiving some TLC and recharge time, too.

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Carolyn Cole is a licensed psychotherapist in Chicago. Her practice focuses on helping her clients with self-discovery, self-exploration, self-love, and healing the relationship with themselves to create the life they desire.