With the holiday season in full swing, social gatherings are happening everywhere: from lighting the menorah with family, attending the tree lighting ceremony in Old Sacramento, a workplace holiday potluck, to a New Year’s Eve party.
If you’re an introvert, these get-togethers may feel overwhelming and more like a chore than a fun outing with friends.
Somewhere between 35-50% of people in the United States are introverts.
What exactly is an introvert?
Think of a rechargeable battery. We all have an internal “battery” that gauges our energy levels.
For an introvert, charging that energy battery is done in solitude, doing activities that they enjoy. Being around people, even family and friends, can drain an introvert’s battery quickly.
For extroverts it’s the opposite. Being in large groups and social settings charges their energy battery. An extrovert will feel invigorated during and after a large party and enjoys the stimulation.
Introversion/extroversion is a continuum – meaning that most people fall somewhere in the middle. If you’re an introvert, you may enjoy and feel stimulated from certain group gatherings but feel drained from others. And, even the most extreme extroverts need alone time.
The Myers-Briggs Typology Quiz is an easy way to figure out how introverted/extroverted you are. If you’re not sure where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, check out this quiz.
Aren’t introverts just shy?
A common misconception is that introversion is the same as shyness or social anxiety. Being shy or socially anxious actually has to do with fear around meeting, being around, and talking with people, whereas, introversion has to do with energy. Both introverts and extroverts can be shy and socially anxious. And both introverts and extroverts can be outgoing.
So what can an introvert do to survive holiday gatherings?
Pick and Choose: You don’t have to attend every party, gathering and get-together you are invited to. Identify which you would enjoy the most, which you are obligated to attend, and which would be the most draining on you. Find balance in your days and weeks, know your limits, and politely decline attending certain events that would empty your battery.
Charge your Battery: Find ways to charge up your battery before an event. Do something that you enjoy: a walk in the park, reading your favorite book, listening to Christmas music while baking cookies.
Set Limits: Identify the length of time you feel comfortable in group settings and social events. Give yourself a timeframe for attending the event and respect yourself and your needs by allowing yourself to leave when you’re feeling exhausted.
Take a Buddy: Enlist a friend, family member or your mate to attend the event with you. Having a close connection nearby can be reassuring and allow you to have a safety zone to reconnect with during the social gathering.
Make a Plan: Once you’ve got your support person arranged, come up with a game plan together. Remember how earlier you identified your own limits? Share your limits, feelings and needs with your support. Make arrangements so that you and your support are on the same page for the party and both your social needs get met.
Unwind: When you’re heading home from a gathering, take some deep breaths, listen to your favorite music or just enjoy some quiet time, and praise yourself at an event well-handled.
Be OK with Being You: Get comfortable with the fact that you’re an introvert. It’s ok! Knowing this about yourself and honoring your needs around social interactions will leave you feeling recharged and happy. You will be more engaged when you are around others, because you will know how to keep your battery full.
If you would like some more information about being an introvert, check out Susan Cain’s book called “Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”
I hope these tips help make this year’s holiday gathering more enjoyable for you. If you have techniques that have helped you as an introvert, I’d love to hear about them. Please share with me in the comments or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adriana Joyner, LMFT is a Sacramento Area therapist who provides counseling to people healing from trauma and abuse, and gender support for those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email email@example.com.