November 17, 2014

The Introvert’s Guide to Avoiding Holiday Burnout.

I love the holidays, with a passion that is unmatched in any other event or time of the year.

It is borderline obsessive, I am keenly aware. My partner has a text tone for me that blasts Christmas music every time I send a message—and I love it.

I remember spending the cozy evenings after a (too) big Thanksgiving meal with my family, doling out responsibilities for tree decorations and strategic ceramic snowmen placement. The countless bins of Christmas flare would come up from our dark basement and entrench the living room with nothing less than joy in trinket form.

My Dad would head to the garage to gather and untangle what seemed liked thousands of white lights, and I knew that in just a few short hours, our entire house would be transformed into what I still feel like is heaven on earth.

There is something magical about the holidays, and family, and big meals and afternoon naps on the couch. For an introverted soul, however, the last two months of the year can be as terrifying as they are comforting.

I quietly struggle with the rushing around and scheduling and pop in guests, and I know I’m not the only one. Up until recently, I thought something was wrong with me—I’d get more closed off as everyone around me seemed to ramp up. I’d get a headache, and suddenly get so exhausted I could barely stand.

Giving energy to those around me depletes my bucket, faster than my extroverted counterparts. For someone who doesn’t live in that oftentimes uncomfortable world, it can be a challenge to relate.

Everyone asks what’s wrong, and I say nothing, knowing that is far from the truth. But I had no clear understanding of what happened to me during a time I should be the happiest. Engulfed with good conversation and the presence of those I loved the most—I just want to retreat.

I’ve spent countless hours devouring information on introvert functioning, or malfunctioning in my case. Others’ words speak clearly to me, and I feel a little ignorant taking 20 some years to figure out I am not simply a sleepy mess in social situations, but am, instead, emotionally drained.

As much as I want to be the life of holiday get-togethers, it was never a gift I had to give. My energy comes from being alone, and I can only recharge when that is respected. Without knowing that, every year, I was eventually doomed by the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’

In figuring this out, I felt sharing some tips for the upcoming holiday season may be beneficial to others—a time that seems packed to the brim with dinners and parties and general ‘let’s come together before the end of the year’ shenanigans.

From one introvert to another, or to those extroverts who may need a different perspective of the quiet one in the corner—we don’t have to be on the same page, but we can at least be reading the same book.

Shall we?

First, my dear introverted friends, don’t force being present.

I’ve learned the hard way that pressuring myself to be seen and participate in event after event is nothing less than detrimental to my health. The headaches start early on, my mood plummets, and my stomach starts to turn. In previous years, I felt obligated to do and go and be whenever the invitation came—and I went, even when I knew my energy levels were on the brink of running out.

It isn’t necessary to show up if we aren’t truly showing up, right?

If we don’t feel it, we shouldn’t do it.

I realize this is the most difficult when it comes to family and friends around the holiday season—there is an inherent obligation to show up with a warm smile and an open heart, is there not? But we aren’t doing anyone any favor by being present but less than our full, recharged selves. Take a backseat when it makes sense to do so and refill that bucket. Everyone will be grateful in the end.

Next, we must be open about it.

No, really. I’ve kept my introverted tendencies to myself, even when my discomfort is apparent. It is easy to assume, based on my career and my many years of faking, that I am having an off day when I’m quiet or when I don’t engage in conversation. The truth is most people expect a certain me to show up, and when that doesn’t happen quickly, confusion ensues and we all end up in a funky spot.

Not the good kind of funky—the nasty kind.

When we are open about what we need, even if it may seem odd to the masses, we all benefit. I’ve talked at length about my need for recharging with my partner, but I have been less open with my family and friends—until this post.

Hi, guys.

Regardless of how odd we think it may seem to others, it’s more helpful to state what we need, take the time that’s necessary, and forget about judgment or any other negativity that may come from being, well, us.

It’s nonsense to try and be anyone else, and no one needs nonsense during the holidays.

And to the extroverted counterparts, if we step away for a moment, it is because we want to eventually come back in the mix—recharged and ready to give what we have to offer.

Finally, understand that no one else in the room may fully understand.

I despise being asked what is wrong, because, for the most part, the answer is nothing. I wear my emotions clear as day, which is as beneficial as it is jarring to others. But sweet extroverted friends, nothing is wrong with me. I want to be wherever it is I am, so please, try not to coddle or change the energy to match mine.

I understand it is coming from a heart-fueled place, but it sets a tone that is difficult to overcome, even with too much holiday pie.

As we gear up for another round of holiday fun, remember, no matter where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, we’re all here for the same reason—good food, connection with friends and family, and those coveted naps on the couch.


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Author: Melissa Horton

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Knar Bedlan, Flickr

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