So, “surviving” may not be the best attitude to cultivate when it comes to thinking about the holidays.
But you know what? To us introverts that’s exactly what it feels like. Sure, I look forward to going home, seeing my family and friends, but usually an entire year’s absence needs to be crammed into a week, and that can seem overwhelming to everyone but the most extroverted among us.
As a life-long introvert and conqueror of endless holiday gatherings, here are a few offerings from my holiday survival kit:
I think the thing that panics an introvert most is anticipation. In the moment, we’re usually okay; it’s when we begin to anticipate the next social engagement or how to make a graceful (and unnoticed) exit as early as possible that we begin to freak out a little. Instead, stay in one place. Focus on the person to whom you’re speaking. Breathe. Feel the cup/plate/anti-stress squeeze toy in your hand.
Become intensely aware of the present moment and how you are, actually, okay in this moment. How you’re always okay in the moment and how you’ll most likely be okay in the next moment.
Introverts project because they want to make sure the next step is safe before they take it. No one can guarantee that; instead, feel the step you’re on right now. Safe, isn’t it? I can pretty much promise the next one will be, too.
2. Always have something in your hands.
I don’t care if it’s a cup (empty or otherwise, alcoholic or otherwise), a plate, a rabbit’s foot (fake, of course) or your favorite stuffed animal given to you by your Aunt Susan when you were four years old. Having something solid in your hands gives you a grounding point. Hold on to it, allow its solidness to reassure you that you are, in fact, perfectly okay. Keep it as a talisman and carry it with you everywhere. Make it your physical mantra.
3. On that note, have a mantra.
A mantra, or a series of sounds, words or phrases that you repeat over and over again in your mind (or, if you’re like me and you spend a lot of time hiding out in bathrooms, aloud) can be incredibly reassuring. Find something you can remember and that you find comforting. For me, it’s the mantra associated with Ganesha, the Hindu god and remover of obstacles: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha. But anything will work (sometimes I also use in this moment, I am okay over and over again).
4. Have a getaway plan and a getaway partner.
Sometimes all the preparation and breathing still doesn’t work and all you want to do is get out fast. That’s okay. That’s where you are, so honor it. But enlist a friend here. Have a getaway phrase to cue them in and have a plan (my phrase is always the crow flies at midnight because even introverts need to invoke a little humor and mystery every once in a while). Figure out how you’ll make a graceful exit and then do it.
5. Think outside of yourself.
Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our own comfort (or lack thereof) that we forget that all these people—the ones who keep swarming us and hugging us without our permission? They really, really want to see us. They love us, they’ve missed us and this is how they express that affection.
So, try to see things from their point of view, when you can. Tolerate as much as you can because, really, the holidays are about receiving all that love people want to give. That’s the gift you give your loved ones. The ability to walk with grace and courage through the crowded, well-lit and noisy holiday gauntlet. That’s the gift you give yourself.
Or, if you don’t need an immediate exit, just take a little break. Have your partner run interference for you while you escape onto a balcony, into a bathroom or a bedroom. Shut the door and breathe. Or, find a book and read a few pages. Get yourself grounded with a little alone time and then re-enter the festivities.
Knowing you have an escape plan, even if you never need to use it, will go a long way toward making socializing more comfortable.
Ed: Bryonie Wise