How to Survive the Onslaught of Holiday Party Season as an Introvert

An introvert at a holiday party

A month — or longer — of holiday events can leave introverts wanting to crawl under a blanket and never come out.    

The holiday season can be a difficult time for introverts. It’s a time of year that relies heavily on social gatherings that occur in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and even in between Christmas and the New Year. It’s a month — or longer — of events, which can exhaust us socially and leave us wanting to crawl under a blanket for the whole of January, and simply be left in peace and quiet. 

Often there’s a lot of pressure to socialize during the holiday season. Employers regard it as the perfect time to throw their big annual party and invite entire offices — or the whole company — which can be tens or hundreds of people (cringe). At the same time, family gatherings can include large groups of extended family members with their partners and friends. These are the events that cause us introverts the most difficulty, as we usually have no control over the number of people, the type of event, or any kind of ability to say “No, this isn’t for me.” (I mean, we could say that, but if you’re a people-pleaser like me, it’s hard to say “no.”)

And as COVID-19 lockdowns around the world ease, holiday get-togethers are likely to be in fuller force this year versus last — but there are ways to cope as an introvert. If you find yourself anxious about the upcoming holiday season, here are some tips to handle it. 

6 Ways to Survive Holiday Party Season as an Introvert

1. Space out events as much as you can.

Some event dates are non-negotiable, like an annual work party or Christmas Day dinner. Mark these events on your calendar as a social period. When there’s a new event proposed by friends or family, choose a date that allows you to have alone time between events. 

One way to do this is to suggest a few dates for events that give you space between already-existing events in your calendar. This will also allow your family or friends to choose the best date for the event they’re planning. Those close to you will understand your need for time to recharge, and it’s likely they’ve got a lot going on, too! Providing multiple dates that work for you is a good way to put yourself first, while still being flexible enough to make plans with multiple people. 

2. Schedule dedicated downtime into your calendar.

So you have social periods marked on your calendar. Now, immediately after an event — such as the morning after a nighttime party — mark this as a non-social period. This could be anything from a couple of hours to a full weekend, depending on the length of the event before it and how much time you think you’ll need to get back to your best self. (After all, you want to avoid getting the dreaded “introvert hangover.”

Then commit these times to yourself as non-negotiable periods for you to recharge. Plan things in those slots that you know will help you reset, whether that’s picking out a book you’re excited to read or letting your housemates know that you’ll be in your room recharging. Dedicate and protect that time as though it’s a physical event.        

3. Prioritize interactions at parties (so you don’t expend energy on the “wrong” people).

Now that your calendar has blocks of social and non-social time, you need to best utilize your social cup at the parties you attend. One way to do this is to prioritize your social interactions. Take your work’s Christmas party, for example. Talking to someone you’re never going to work with or meet again takes away valuable social energy that you could dedicate to talking to your boss, colleagues, or work friends.     

So focus on valuable social interactions with the people important to you, and remove small talk for the sake of small talk. For events with friends or family, think about who you see the least and try to talk to them first, so that as your ability to socialize wanes, you’re not left feeling guilty that you didn’t talk to a person you’re not going to meet up with again for a long time. 

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4. Scope out social-free zones.

Every party will have spaces that will be less busy, and will involve much less communication, like the restroom, the room full of coats or coat checks, and the garden or venue grounds. Figure out where these are as soon as you arrive at a party. Scope them out so you can escape for five minutes (or more) to take a breather later. (I even prepare a few excuses in advance so I don’t have to think of them on the spot. I’ll say something like “I need to make a quick call” or “I need to use the restroom.”)

Then, throughout the evening, give yourself socializing breaks. Sit in a stall in the restroom and take slow, steady breaths (even introverts Oprah and Amy Schumer have said they do this!). You could even put some earbuds or noise-cancelling headphones into your purse and give yourself a few minutes of silence or white noise. 

If you want to get outside, go get some fresh air for five minutes. If people start to approach you when you need a people-ing break, check your phone, even if you’re not expecting a call. These small respites will help immensely to pace your social interactions across the event, avoiding that “introvert hangover” I mentioned earlier.

5. Buddy up with an extrovert.

A brilliant way to be in a conversation without all the focus being on you is to buddy up with an extrovert. Whether it’s your colleague, best friend, or cousin, stay close to them so you can be in the conversation without being responsible for it. They will ensure the conversation flows! 

6. Remind yourself that you don’t have to be the life and soul of the party.

Everyone who knows you will understand that you’re an introvert, so no one expects you to be the life and soul of the party. But if you want to be, go for it! (Some introverts do like being the center of attention — not many, but some!) Parties are supposed to be fun, so have fun in a way that feels comfortable to you, and socialize up to your personal limit. Then reward yourself with a hot bath, a good book, or a relaxing walk, and give yourself a pat on the back for surviving the festive party season. You earned it.

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Rebecca Holland (@velvetopusreads) is an introverted freelance writer from the UK. She talks about books in several places. Find the latest on their website: VelvetOpus.com.