How to Survive Hosting Houseguests as a Sensitive Introvert

A highly sensitive introvert has dinner with her houseguests

No matter how much I may love my family, having anyone in my space for more than a day is overwhelming.

As a highly sensitive introvert, I cherish the blissful, quiet haven that is my home. It’s the one place where I can completely relax, be myself, and renew my energy at the end of each day.

But when guests come to visit, all that changes.

No matter how much I may love my friends and family and enjoy spending time with them, having anyone in my space for more than a day is completely overwhelming. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way; many highly sensitive people (HSPs) have said that having houseguests is one of the things that stress them out the most. Both HSPs and introverts cherish our alone time, too.

Fortunately, I’ve learned a few tricks that help me manage my stress when friends and family come to stay. Here are my five best tips for surviving houseguests as an HSP.

5 Ways to Survive Hosting Houseguests as a Highly Sensitive Introvert 

1. Be upfront about your sensitivity.

I know this might not work for everyone. Telling people you’re a sensitive person has its pros and cons, and deciding whether or not to disclose your sensitivity to your houseguests depends on what you’re comfortable with (and who your houseguests are).

As sensitive people, we tend to be deeply empathetic. The last thing we want to do is make anyone uncomfortable by letting them know they’re making us uncomfortable. I will go to great lengths to avoid causing any awkwardness, and I never want to come across as rude or unwelcoming.

But guess what? I am not as good as I thought I was at hiding my sensitivity. I realized that, by trying to hide it, I sometimes came across as unsociable or rude, despite my good intentions.

Whether or not you realize it, by quietly disappearing from the group, getting overstimulated and disengaging from conversation, or accidentally making a face (because you’re too drained to filter your reactions), you may inadvertently send a message that you don’t like your houseguests or you’re not happy to see them — as inaccurate as that message might be. You may come across as rude, when that’s the last thing you’re aiming for.

During a recent visit from some out-of-town family members, they commented that I seemed stressed and they didn’t understand why. After a moment of fumbling over my words, which is common for introverts, I was honest:

It’s just an introversion/sensitivity thing. I love hanging out with you, but I need alone time to recharge. The same goes for anyone — even the people I’m closest to. When we have houseguests, it’s hard to find that time. I feel like I have to be “on,” when normally I wouldn’t be.

I’m not sure my extroverted guest fully got it, but I felt better for at least having tried to explain myself. It’s better than running the risk of them taking my sensitivity personally.

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2. Know your triggers and plan ways to minimize overwhelm.

After a few particularly stressful visits, I noticed certain aspects of sharing a space overwhelmed me more than others. When I’m able to fulfill certain needs of mine, it becomes much easier to accommodate houseguests. So I started making a list:

  • I need time to recharge after a visit before I jump into another draining situation, like work or another social interaction. The “introvert hangover” is real! When I can, I build in at least a half-day of downtime for myself after the visit (whether that’s the Sunday afternoon after a weekend visit or I take a vacation day; it’s not always feasible or ideal, but sometimes necessary and worth it after a particularly long or intense visit).  
  • I need to maintain my regular routine as much as I can, especially during the workweek. This is another reason I avoid having houseguests on work nights — I need to be able to make my morning coffee without worrying about waking anyone up and go through my morning routine without the distraction of other people. I also try to maintain other important rituals, like going to my weekly yoga classes. To me, these are non-negotiable practices that keep me feeling balanced.
  • I need my space to be calm, clean, and clutter-free before I welcome people into my home. A messy space increases my anxiety, and I’m more comfortable when I know the house has been freshly cleaned before people come over. So, leading up to a visit, I’ll make a list of chores I need to complete to feel fully prepared (or at least as prepared as my sensitive soul can be). Then, I’ll spend a little time each day completing those tasks.

Now, when friends and family reach out to schedule a visit, I’m able to keep these needs in mind. By anticipating the things that are most likely to overstimulate me, I’m able to be proactive and take steps to mitigate some of my biggest challenges before they arise.

3. Prep your introvert/HSP sanctuary as best as possible.

This has been the most energy-saving tip for me whenever I have houseguests: Designate an introvert (or HSP) sanctuary for yourself. This is a room that is off-limits to guests, where you can take a few minutes to recharge when you need to.

For me, that haven is my bedroom. I keep my bedroom door closed during my guests’ entire stay, politely signaling that I’d prefer to keep it private. I’ve even started stocking the room with some supplies so I don’t have to leave my haven before I’m ready. Consider prepping your sanctuary with:

  • Snacks and water. There’s nothing worse than forced interactions when you’re hangry (hungry + angry, as HSPs are sometimes known to be), so stashing a non-perishable snack or two in your room can buy you some extra time to recharge before you’re forced to interact out of sheer hunger.
  • Noise-canceling headphones. Sounds can get overwhelming, and walls don’t always filter them out.
  • Books, journals and a laptop (and don’t forget the charger!). Have a few items on hand that will help you recharge or do other tasks that are important to you. For example, when I have houseguests, I keep my laptop in my bedroom so I can write in solitude (something that helps me recharge).

I am fortunate to have a husband who can help share the load when it comes to keeping guests entertained. This means that I have some flexibility to spend a few moments of alone time in my bedroom when I need personal space. Sometimes, this looks like sneaking off to bed early while everyone else is watching a movie, or taking my time getting up in the morning. If we don’t have plans for the day, I will allow myself to sleep in or spend a few minutes reading, journaling, or otherwise recharging before I make my grand entrance to the rest of the house.

Of course, if you’re living with a roommate or partner, you don’t want to burden them with all of the hosting responsibilities in your absence. Make sure to check in with each other, and try not to leave them hanging alone too often or for too long. If they’re an HSP and/or introvert, too, you might offer to trade off with them when they need a break.

It might sound rude to “hide out” from your guests for a bit, but remember — you don’t have to spend every waking moment with them for multiple days on end. Frankly, it’s a little unnatural to spend that much uninterrupted time with someone outside of your immediate household! You will ultimately be a better, more relaxed host if you can find pockets of time to recharge.

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4. Get out of the house — connecting with nature is one example.

Many highly sensitive introverts are natural homebodies, and it’s true that “there’s no place like home.” But, when I have guests visiting from out of town, I’ve found that it’s sometimes less draining to make plans away from the house.

Because my home is my sanctuary, sometimes just having people in my space for so many hours (or days!) in a row can feel overstimulating. I’ve found that, sometimes, shaking things up and making plans out of the house helps redirect everyone’s attention and takes some of the pressure off me. It keeps guests busy without me feeling like I have to entertain.

Here are some introvert-friendly activities you can plan the next time you have houseguests.

  • See a movie in theaters. There’s no better excuse to spend a couple hours not speaking to each other!
  • Tour a museum. Most museums tend to be quiet and involve a lot of independent plaque-reading and quiet reflection.
  • Go to a zoo or aquarium. That way, your focus can be on what you’re looking at there.
  • Take a hike on a nature trail or a walk in the park. Nature can be a great way for introverts to recharge.
  • Eat at a favorite restaurant. Once again, you don’t have to be the center of attention here.
  • Shop. A crowded mall might not be your thing, but you can think outside-the-box and find some unique shops to quietly browse, like an independent bookstore, vintage clothing shop, or antique mall.
  • Find a local craft brewery or distillery. During the day, these types of places tend to be quieter and more comfortable than a typical bar aimed at nightlife.

Also, don’t be afraid to volunteer for a solo errand during your visitors’ stay, if needed. Offering to run to the grocery store or pick up the takeout while your guests relax can be a great way to sneak in a few precious moments of alone time — and they all count!

5. Remember: The visit is temporary.

Even with all the best planning, many introverted HSPs may be uncomfortable during a houseguest’s stay — and that’s okay. Accept that you will probably be pushed outside your comfort zone, but remember that the visit is temporary, and the time will likely go faster than you think.

Remember that your guests are visiting because they care about you and want to spend time with you. As much as their visit might overwhelm you, remember that, deep down, you feel the same way about them. Think of this as an opportunity to deepen a relationship that’s meaningful to you — and then don’t be afraid to do it in a way that honors your introversion and sensitivity.

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