A Therapist Explains Why Introverts Might Dread the Holidays

An introvert at a holiday party

Your feelings are valid. It’s okay to recognize the exhaustion and the stress of the holiday season and to honor how you feel.

For many people, the holidays are a fun season — the sparkly lights, music, parties, feeling of magic in the air, and refreshing feeling of a reset with the new year approaching. Although there’s a lot to love about the holiday season, it can also be a trying time for introverts. (I know this feeling quite well, as I speak from experience as an introvert myself.)   

In my work as a psychotherapist, I notice a few key themes tend to come up over and over again for introverts about the holidays. A central one is the feeling of pressure. Introverts love spending time alone in their home sanctuary, and finding this time becomes more challenging around the holidays. Without as much ample time to ground and recharge, introverts may feel exhausted and overwhelmed. That said, here are some more common things that 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 an introvert’s social battery.

The anticipation of holiday social events can certainly bring up feelings of dread for the introvert. For many of us “quiet ones,” it’s not that we don’t like celebrating the holidays. It’s about finding the right balance and dose of social activities that works for us! 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 won’t feel good either. (Yes, even introverts get lonely.)

But back to why too many social obligations can 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 of 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 only lasts for a couple of hours, this arrangement might feel okay to us introverts. But when there are many factors out of our control, like a large number of people and the potential for having to manage multiple small-talk-type conversations, watch out. 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 these things is what feels dreadful to introverts.  

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

The holidays are often associated with spending time with family and friends. You may plan time away to be with people you care about, or they may stay with you. There can be a lot of joy in having a houseguest, but at the same time, the change in routine and the 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! This change 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. When others are in our homes, constantly around, relaxing can be a challenge. 

We probably also feel obligated to make plans for our guests for the length of their stay, or we feel the need to entertain them, 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. We may 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. 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.  The stressful and anxious energies of the other shoppers can be felt by some introverts who are more sensitive to others’ energies and emotions. It’s not a relaxing experience!

And, just thinking about the need to purchase gifts for loved ones can create another type of stress. As introverts tend to be deep souls, we apply this depth to our gift selection. For example, an introvert may feel like a gift card won’t cut it — a gift card might feel like the equivalent of small talk in the realm of gift-giving. Instead, we may search for the perfect gifts that have meaning for those we care about, rather than getting “any old gift.” This process can add to the stress that we’re already feeling!

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

The anticipation of the holiday season — and all that comes with it for introverts — can bring up feelings of 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 actual events themselves. 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 socializing that comes with the holiday season is certainly draining for you. It’s okay to recognize the exhaustion and the stress and to 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, 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 obligation, and finding ways to give yourself grace. You don’t have to be perfect — and you certainly don’t have to do it all.

Give Yourself the Gift of Recharge Time

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 that so many people love to celebrate all month long. You are not alone in how you feel when you get overwhelmed or need alone time — so many other introverts are right there with you.

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

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