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