The Holidays Are Absolutely Exhausting for Introverts. Let’s Change That. introverts exhausting Christmas holidays

Does this sound like your ideal Christmas? A week before Christmas day, feeling refreshed and relaxed, you spend your free time puttering around the kitchen preparing Christmas day goodies. Last minute decorations go up, the freshly cut tree is dressed up with the family humming (quietly) to soft holiday tunes.

You’re feeling refreshed and relaxed because all your holiday shopping was done a month ago—online. Your social calendar is looking decidedly (but intentionally) sparse. You have mindfully chosen to accept a few social invitations from close friends. You’ve wasted no guilt at being a “no show” at the larger and louder office, school, and daycare parties.

You’ve carefully planned the big day with loads of quiet downtime on either side of the extended family lunches and dinners. A long quiet walk, a nice nap, and a spot in the sun with your new book.

But this is probably closer to your reality.

The kids are jumping noisily on beds demanding presents at 6 a.m. (if you’re lucky). You race around doing last-minute wrapping for the guests arriving for breakfast. Host breakfast, clean up, walk the dog, deal with the early morning present unwrapping chaos. Leave late for lunch.

Attend lunch with long lost aunties, your cousins, your parents, and neighbors. Everyone wants to know what you’ve been up to this year! Separately, of course. Dad insists on playing the Christmas carols loud enough so the whole street benefits, and grandma has lost her hearing aid so everyone is yelling—everything, all the time.

Leave lunch and attempt a quick nap before you shuffle off to visit the other side of the family. The children play with their noisy toys (thanks Great Aunty Clara), and you realize you left the new book you just received at your parents—because you were so damn keen to leave!

Downtime(?) over, off to the next large family get-together. By this time, you would trade your Christmas pudding for five minutes of silence.

Arriving at the next venue, you feign a toilet stop—the long kind. Really you are just hiding in the bathroom, back against the door, taking deep breaths with your fingers in your ears. You ever so gracefully make your exit, survive the next three hours of “fun” by the skin of your teeth (swearing under your breath doesn’t count right?), and spend the next 10 days recovering.

A Different Way for Introverts to Do Holidays

Over it? Me too. Let’s figure out a different way to do the holidays this year!

With many (God willing) Christmases to go, I’ve decided to take steps toward creating my ideal holiday. It’s highly unlikely that the perfect Christmas day will ever unfold. But I think I can inch further away from the past seasons of overwhelm and towards a slower, gentler approach to the festive season. One where my highly sensitive, introverted nature is nurtured rather than beaten beyond recognition.

I feel like the holiday season can be a survival-of-the-fittest situation, and I’m well and truly over running the festive marathon and trying to keep up with the extroverts—or even those slightly less introverted than I am.

Here’s how I plan to do it:

1. Inject a bunch of white space into the season. This means one or two “social things” on my calender per day—max. That’s it. Loads of free time around these activities so I can re-energize.

2. Utilize white noise as much as possible. I’m sensitive to lots of extraneous noise. Particularly the kind I can’t control. I’ve recently discovered I can hook myself up to my forest sounds app and still supervise my kids—I just don’t need to hear their constant noise.

3. Build my reserves now. Consciously choose lots of alone time over the next two weeks so that I am feeling bolstered up for the onslaught of social engagement.

4. Tell the truth and don’t apologize for who I am. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of lying my way out of having to be around people. But as much as possible, I like to avoid lying. I also value authenticity. This means I have to have brave conversations. “I’m sorry I can’t make coffee, I’ve already had three coffee dates this week,” or “No, I won’t be going to the party, a room full of people I don’t know that I’m expected to make small talk with for three hours is something I can’t do right now.” People usually respect your honesty.

5. Let go of perfection and don’t try to do it all. Not completely related to being an introvert, but letting go of the house and having to prepare countless dishes enables me more downtime—and potentially more alone time.

6. Have an escape plan and use if needed. For those times when I haven’t planned well (when I don’t have my energy reserves stocked up), I use safe words and safe places with my family so I can leave before I erupt or am completely drained. This might mean saying to my partner, “I need five minutes of space please,” which means he takes over and I escape to the nearest place I can be alone to breathe.

It’s actually my job to monitor this. I have to put on my big girl pants and realize when I need to escape. This means thinking ahead. Where is a place I can go for five minutes of peace at this party?

7. The last step? Learn. It’s unlikely that I’ll achieve my dream introvert Christmas this year, or next—but I can learn and implement my new knowledge to improve and add to my survival kit for next year! This involves going slower and noticing what drains me and what fills me.

Don’t let the holiday season beat you up this year. Start figuring out what you can do to nurture your inner introvert today so you can spend more quality time with your family and less time feigning long toilet breaks. 

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Read this: 17 Signs You’re Suffering From an ‘Introvert Hangover’

Learn more: The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, by Jenn Granneman 


  • njguy54 says:

    Great stress management advice for anyone, introvert or not. However, I think a lot of people really get off on the chaos of the season— even people who complain about it — because it’s a distraction from reality. For one month a year the world becomes a theme park, with lights, music and activities everywhere, and we can put work and school on hold for a while.

  • Charlotte Bronte says:

    This, x100 if you’re an introvert living with chronic illness.

    • Emma Scheib says:

      Oh Charlotte!! I can’t imagine how hard that must be. Best wishes for getting through the next few weeks and I hope you find an extra special dose of energy for the loved ones in your life!

      • Charlotte Bronte says:

        Thanks, Emma. I’ve really been scraping the bottom of the barrel this past week, and your comment made me feel not quite so alone. 🙂

  • Terry & Donna Mixon says:


    ONE month a year?


    Are you crazy? (Rhetorical question)

    For THREE months of the year I have to send out scouts everywhere I go to check for live Poinsettias (Christmas weeds).


    Because breathing the air contaminated by one somewhere in the building, whether I can see it or not, will KILL ME!

    It releases latex proteins into the air. Not pollen. Not mold. Latex proteins.

    Ever suffocated while completely cognizant of what is happening to you and absolutely unable to tell anyone what is going on or fight with the god-complexed doctor who doesn’t believe it can happen?

    Yep. Didn’t think so.

    Then there are the hair-brains who believe this weed has some kind of holy power. Or that their right to have a weed supersedes my right to breathe.

    And the lengths they go to to hide them…like not seeing them somehow won’t make me turn blue and die.

    If the leaves are not green, but have changed color to red or white or gold or whatever friggen man-made monstrosity of a color they are, then they are blooming. When they bloom has an impact on how much of the chemical I get exposed to, but figuring out the exact balance still requires that I DIE.

    Having already done that TWICE from these things, I am not excited to do it again.

    So NO! The world does not turn into a Theme Park. It turns into JIGSAW’s HORROR PARK where you never know which idiot didn’t take my warnings seriously and decide they must have that nasty, sticky, poison sumac-like weed.

    Because it’s green and red.

    And because you have all been brainwashed into believing they are festive.

    Well… FK festive!

    I believe in God and Jesus, but those things are DANGEROUS!

    I worked as a florist in high school. That’s where it started. Then as an assistant credit manager at a major chain retail store they decided to sell the dang things and parked a palette of 2400 plants outside my office. I had my first attack. Three days later I was pronounced dead and resuscitated in the parking lot.

    Every Halloween the horror begins. It doesn’t end until almost mid-January. Except for the few that miraculously survive all year. (Couldn’t go to a friend’s house during the summer because she had one outside her home that bloomed then.)

    My introvert nature hates the holidays anyway.

    But this makes people, in general, the evil I avoid.

    • Charlotte Bronte says:

      I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal not only with a serious health issue but also with what sounds like a total lack of empathy, understanding, and accommodation from those around you. Instead of wishing you a Merry Christmas, I will wish that the next few months will seem pass by as quickly as possible so that you can get back to living a happy, healthy, and productive life (whatever *your* definition of that is). 🙂

      • Terry & Donna Mixon says:

        Thank you. I lose my brain (and decorum) sometimes because of interactions. I think that probably colored my comment above. For which I apologize.

        I used to love Christmas, and I still do to some extent. Even if it means not being able to enjoy everything about it.

        But I don’t want to destroy anyone else’s enjoyment because I situation stinks.

        I do wish the next few months pass quickly, because of poinsettias and because we are still putting our house back together after Harvey barged in. We are on track with that, though.

        So I wish everyone a Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, and so forth. I hope everyone’s 2018 is better than previous years in whatever way that manifests itself.

        • Charlotte Bronte says:

          Although I’m not dealing with your particular situation (and you’re having to deal with Harvey aftermath too–I can’t imagine), so much of what you’ve said about losing your brain/decorum, and your mixed feelings about Christmas resonate so strongly with me. I just wanted to let you know that you’re not destroying my enjoyment of Christmas; your story made me feel like I’m not alone in struggling to feel “jolly” at this time of year. As we say in the chronically ill community, I hope you’re as well as possible (AWAP), and in the spirit of the season I wish you happy everything! Fingers crossed for 2018.

  • Mirador1014 says:

    Step One, where you limit yourself to “one or two ‘social things’ per day,” gave me hives! One or two per day? No can do! Three per week is more like it!

    • Emma Scheib says:

      Haha sorry about that! Keep in mind that some days the ‘social things’ is literally having to go to the supermarket or school pick up!!

      • Terry & Donna Mixon says:

        Anything that requires being within eyesight of another human being is “social” for me. And sometimes that gives me hives.

        I have significant allergies (as I frothed about above) to this time of year, but I swear seeing the overly enthusiastic folks (aliens) and the truly miserable-in-any-crowd folks (my people) at this time of year makes me want to crawl into my hole and not come out. I sometimes want to just hibernate like a bear.

        When I do have to go out, I carry lollipops to give to the screaming children. It shuts them up long enough for me to get my misophonia back under control and escape.

    • Macarons & Sakura Tea says:

      You’re very funny! Happy to meet another ISTJ-type.
      Happy 2018, sister!

  • Dawn Doster says:

    What is this “forest app” you speak of? LOL It sounds wonderful and something I need in my life! Can you share the details? Thank you for this perfect article, I will try to incorporate these ideas and hope to have a merrier than usual Christmas!

  • Emma Scheib says:

    Hey LW! I have found that the more I say no and really feel ok with it myself, they easier it gets. It’s kinda like practicing to be the best introvert we can be!

  • Therapist Sharon Barnes asks: “How do we overcome the Holiday Blues and December’s depression? By befriending — no — by embracing the previously feared darkness within…Another example of going into the darkness to find the light would be exploring our resistance to something we say we want to do. I want to exercise every day, or that’s what I tell myself…”
    Read much more in her article CASIGY’s Secrets to Overcoming Holiday Blues – Creative, Sensitive, Introverted Gifted People

  • Not Amused says:

    I puposely take my vacation time during the Holidays to spend some quiet time alone or with close family. I avoid crowdwd shopping areas as much as possible, choosing instead to catch up on my reading and hobbies in the peace and quiet of my home.