How to Survive the Holidays as an Introvert

An introvert at a holiday party

One way to survive the holidays as an introvert is to escape from small talk by sitting at the kids’ table.

The last few months of each year are always jam-packed with holiday parties, dinners, and gatherings. As an introvert, too many of these events can suck the holiday cheer right out of me. As a result, I become a scrooge no one wants to be around.

I’ve already heard the buzz of holiday meal plans and the list of relatives flying in. Yes, seeing family is going to be wonderful. But if you’re like me, you also know it will be loud and probably exhausting.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to get the most out of these social events. Now, they don’t exhaust me as much. They have actually become something I look forward to, even though I’m introverted. Here’s how you can stop dreading these holiday gatherings as an introvert and get the most out of them this season.

6 Ways to Survive the Holidays as an Introvert

1. Bring a dish — it’ll be a natural conversation-starter.

When I attend a dinner party or a brunch, I always ask if I can bring something. Not only does it feel nice to contribute to the meal, but I’ve found it to be a way for me to make conversation organically. 

Let’s face it –– introverts hate small talk. It makes us cringe. Myself included. Bringing a homemade pie or colorful salad with a unique dressing provides a natural talking point. Questions like, “Where’d you get this recipe?” “What kind of spices are in this?” and “How long did it take to make?” is a dialogue that comes up naturally around food.

Don’t worry. Even if cooking or baking isn’t your forte, you could bring a dish from your favorite restaurant or bakery. You could even bring food from a place where you have a significant memory. Then, you could share this memory as you share your dish with your friends and family.

2. Come with a book in hand.

If I’m going to a holiday family gathering in a relative’s home, I like to bring a book with me. At some point, I hope that I can sneak off to a quiet spot for 15 minutes and read it. It helps me recharge, especially if the conversations are overstimulating for me.

Plus, much like bringing along a dish, it can be a talking point. If someone catches you reading, they may ask you about the book or characters. I am always happy to share all about what I’m reading. Conversely, you can ask the person if they’ve read anything inspiring or entertaining lately. Nothing like a good book swap at a holiday get-together!

3. Escape from small talk by sitting at the kids’ table.

Kids can be an excellent escape for introverts at a holiday gathering. Try sitting at the “kids’ table” for part of the meal. Of course, you’ll have to get the kids’ permission first! Nevertheless, it can be a welcomed break from cringe-worthy conversations around politics and work at the “adult” table.

I’ve found that when I speak with children, it usually doesn’t have the draining effect on me like conversing with adults. The children don’t have an expectation for how I should reply or questions I should or shouldn’t ask. They are genuine in their responses. And often hilarious.

Taking your child (or a niece or nephew) for a stroll around the block or throwing a ball outside can also get you a break from the indoor environment if it is too loud or stimulating. If you’re in a home where the child lives, ask them to show you their room or favorite toy. I promise you they will be more than willing to tell you all about their new favorite thing! Plus, building this genuine connection with your younger family members is valuable, too.

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4. Take breaks, like being the one to run to the store for last-minute ingredients. 

My husband and I frequently drive separate cars when we attend social gatherings. That’s because he is an extrovert and likes to socialize way beyond my limit. It takes planning. But, trust me, the forethought is well worth it.

I also frequently volunteer to run to the store and get the missing ingredient that is needed. Or to go pick up Grandma. These impromptu outings give me a chance to breathe and be alone for a while.

Other options include:

  • Taking a walk outside
  • Getting away with the house pet
  • Finding a quiet spot to read or listen to music

5. Engage in one-on-one conversations.

Holiday get-togethers are prime soil for group conversations, the dreaded kind, where you can barely get a word in and it stays pretty surface level. That kind of dialogue is one of the most draining for me and probably all introverts out there.

Conversing with a friend or relative one-on-one is much more rewarding and rich. Ask a single person to join you on the patio for a few minutes. The two of you can get away from all the extraneous noise from the larger gathering. In these settings, I’ve had my friends and family share genuine insights into their lives. It is also where I feel comfortable doing the same. 

I often walk away from holiday gatherings thinking, “Wow, I had a great conversation with her.” Unfortunately, in my experience, the larger group conversations are not as genuine or meaningful. I get much more out of a one-on-one chat, but it does take some effort to make it happen.

6. Schedule time for yourself.

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I’ve learned to make time for myself, too. Plan in downtime. Alone. It is vital in order to make it through the season without becoming a scrooge.

If you know you have two social commitments on Sunday, don’t plan anything for Saturday (unless you want an “introvert hangover” afterwards!). Instead, stay home and curl up with your favorite book or TV show. Being fully charged for the next day can make all the difference.

Reserving time for yourself means you’re probably going to have to disappoint some people. You may have to say “no” to some holiday party invites. Even though it may be a tough thing for our people-pleasing tendencies to do, do it anyway. I’ve found that I enjoy the festivities much more when I’ve had time alone to recharge. This gives me the capacity to fully engage in the holiday gatherings I do choose to attend. It is about quality, not quantity. You’ll see.

My fellow introverts, what tips would you add to the list? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

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