Holidays and the introvert

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If you’re an introvert who celebrates any of the late year holidays, then sometime around the beginning or middle of October you probably became aware of a nagging thought that it’s getting to be that time again. If you have family members to love, then your thoughts about the holidays are not all bah humbug, of course. We treasure these days to get together with people who love us unconditionally, even if they never quite figured us out. But something about too many hours of togetherness, work parties where our attendance is all but mandatory, and even being unable to even run the simplest errand in late December without loud, pressing crowds, are not exactly relaxing thoughts. There’s really nothing I can do to help most of those things 🙂 but I thought we’d all feel better with a post about holidays and a chance to share some stories. Also, it can make us all feel better as we go through the next month and a half if we know we can come back to this post to tell horror stories – and hopefully find humor in them.

When I was a child and even a young woman in my first job, I truly loved all holidays just like the media tells us we do. A few years later I moved away from my hometown so then I was in the position of staying overnight vs. just making day trips when there were major holidays. Also, I got to my first company that had a holiday party each December on the busiest weekend of all – the weekend right before Christmas. Oh sure, I didn’t get to see my coworkers enough during the week; I’d absolutely love to devote the last Saturday night before Christmas to spending the evening making small talk with their spouses and desperately looking toward the door, the band, anywhere except where I was sitting. I especially love a good crowded mall, with the noise level so high that it seems like my ears are ringing, and parking lots so full of life it’s a wonder I make it out of there without a dent in my car.

But enough of that bitter-sounding stuff. I know we’re all in different situations. Some of us have family to spend the holidays with, which will bring with it the need for some recharge time. Some of us have nowhere to go, and maybe we’re OK with that, but we have coworkers and onlookers who will prod, “What are YOU doing for the holidays?” Here are some ideas I have – please feel free to add to them in the comments!

  • If you go to spend days and nights with family, of course sneak in some recharge time before you end up getting so uncomfortable you hurt someone’s feelings. Take a “nap,” which really might be just being alone in your room, or take a walk, bike ride, or whatever you can manage. Don’t underestimate the value of just 30 minutes to say, “Ahhhhh…” in pleasure, as you’re finally alone.  I lost my sweet dad a few years ago, and my mother is in her 80s. I’m just about as introverted as they come, but I am looking forward to the holidays this year, just thankful to be able to spend them with her, my sister and her family, and my own teen-aged kids. So don’t let your abrasive aunt or critical cousin ruin the holidays for you or make you avoid family gatherings.  If you have loved ones you want to be with, then be sure to do that if you can.
  • If you have no family around and are considering spending the holidays alone, be sure that’s really want you want to do. Sometimes someone far away will invite us to come to their home, and our knee-jerk reaction might be to say no thanks. But then as the holiday starts looming, we might wish we had taken more time to make that decision. I think it’s perfectly OK to say, “That sounds nice! May I let you know in a few days, when I see how things are going at work?”
  • If you really do want to spend the holiday alone and have some good movies/books/projects in mind, I think it’s fine to be vague when the real pushy people demand your itinerary. I’m talking about the ones who will steamroll right over you, saying, “You’re coming to our house, and I’m picking you up at noon. No arguments!” With them I think it’s fine to say, “Oh, I have some family dropping in, then I might go visit some friends…”
  • If you dread being lonely and are going to be alone, animal shelters need people to feed and care for animals 365 days a year, and of course human shelters and soup kitchens are in the same boat. Their regular volunteers might have been hoping for one or more days away. So make arrangements in advance – in case you need some training of some kind – then you’ll know you will be happily engaged that day – a great day you do not have to go to work but will bring some comfort to others.
  • Do some chores ahead of time so you can coast later.   Often I spend two solid weeks in December cleaning my house, running crazy last-minute errands to buy things I could have bought anytime (baking ingredients, tape, batteries,..), searching for holiday stuff I know I put somewhere, and similar things.  A couple of years ago in a last-minute panic it dawned on me.  “I could start finding my Christmas tablecloths on Halloween from now on!”  🙂   So today I actually went to the supermarket and bought the common baking things like brown and white sugar, and I’m also already starting to do the decluttering that will make cleaning easier each week the rest of the year.   My purpose is to have time to relax during the next six+ weeks.  Time to relax and enjoy rather than feel anxious and time-urgent.

Of course there are many more facets to the holiday dilemma. There are in-laws, parties – especially if you have an extroverted spouse or partner, neighborhood gatherings, stress, and many other things. What’s your survival plan for the holidays?

Photo credit: 416style

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38 Comments

  1. My husband and I are going home for ten days this year; our parents live 45-60 minutes apart. One thing I’ve learned is that my husband and I don’t have to do everything together–he can go to his parents, I can stay at mine. Sometimes this takes a bit of coordinating with vehicles but it’s usually worth it!

    Another thing is that I *always* need to have a backup plan… if we drive together someplace, I need to be able to leave early by myself if need be. My husband can spend 18 hours a day playing loud games with his extended family and even though I love them, I will start going crazy if I don’t have a car that I can use to go someplace else!

    I also need to be forceful with people who don’t understand introverts (ie, his entire family!). Sometimes I’ll say I’m going for a walk, and people will “volunteer” to come with me, to the point where I feel I need to be rude to tell them I want to be by myself; they just can’t fathom WANTING to be by oneself! They are finally starting to understand that I am the way I am, so I need to be very clear, like by saying, I’m going to go for a walk to clear my head.
    .-= Cameron´s last blog ..Gratitude Project 2009 Day 4 =-.

  2. Ya, it’s that time of year already, we get to hear that annoying Christmas music. Maybe it’s just me, but that music gets old real quick.

    My family is spread out in different states so I usually spend Thanksgiving with one side and Christmas with the other. Luckily both of my parents have big houses with plenty of places to sneak away.
    .-= Nick Laborde´s last blog ..Quick Update…I’m Still Alive =-.

  3. Oh my gosh, the “HOLIDAYS” – I dread this time of year. It starts in late October with two family birthdays, my son’s and my brother’s. Since my parents are divorced, this means double the activity as each ‘side’ celebrates separately. Then we go into Thanksgiving and Christmas, (again, separate get togethers) with my father’s birthday thrown in at the end of November as well. And my partner’s birthday is New Years Eve. Way too much activity for me, no matter how much I love the people involved. A few years ago we did decide to combine my father’s birthday with Thanksgiving and we just see him and his wife the day AFTER Thanksgiving or that weekend; we see my mother and her husband on Thanksgiving Day. It’s still hectic. Add work parties and out of town visitors to that, and it is a lot of stress. This year I think I will skip the visit with the out of town friend who comes around Thanksgiving. I work full time and am taking a full time course load at college so I am going to bow out of the planned day after Thanksgiving shopping trip and lunch (are they NUTS???). I shouldn’t have anything to do for school but I can use it as a great excuse not to go. School IS giving me a great excuse to skip the work Christmas party this year but believe it or not, I’m a little disappointed that I can’t go – it’s the first year our group is doing anything FUN but with an early class the next morning, I just can’t attend. (dinner and drinks at a local jazz club – I WOULD enjoy that instead of the rather lame potluck they’ve done in years prior – “Employee Appreciation Party – Bring Your Own Food” – as if anybody has time to add cooking for THAT to the holiday circus of shopping and baking)

    I LIVE for January 1 when I have the day off, no place to go, and can just breathe a huge sigh of relief that the run-around is OVER for another year!
    .-= hermit loner´s last blog ..A Word to Managers Everywhere =-.

    • Oooh Hermit Loner – sounds great that school will dilute some of this “holiday cheer,” although of course it also takes up what little spare time you have left! Yes, January 1 is a peaceful day, isn’t it?

  4. I’ll spend over a week at Christmas at my parents’ house with my husband, our two small children, my brother and his wife and baby, and my other brother and his fiancee. It’s a big house, but still… The group will be pretty evenly split between introverts and extroverts.

    I am glad you posted this, because it made me realize I need to make a plan, or I will definitely end up freaking out and not being nice to people.

    I’ve taken up running as a hobby this year, and I know that’s going to be a vital escape for me. My mom respects my running time because my youngest brother is a competitive runner, so I know if I say, “I’m going for a run!” she’ll watch my kids and let me have that time alone.

    Those of us who are planning this holiday week get-together are all Myers-Briggs Js, so I think I will send them an email talking about a game plan to save the sanity of the introverts. Maybe we can come up with a code word that the introverts can say when they need “out” and we’ll get everyone to immediately respect those requests.

    -@miller_schloss
    .-= Becky Miller´s last blog ..Fug or Fab? =-.

    • Becky, having all those Js sounds great. I’ll never forget being told, “cb you plan too much!” when I was just trying to decide what time to start driving the 150 miles home! Glad everyone respects that the introverts’ preferences are just as valid as everyone else’s!

      Thanks so much for your comment – and come back to Introvert Zone soon!

    • Klaus I love that! The introverts can go “on the offensive” with camcorders/cameras this way! And even after that, you get some alone time to see how the video or pictures came out on the computer.

  5. Being of European descent (I have hot Italian blood coursing through my veins) we are very family oriented and usually split Xmas and stuff in two. As an example I may spend lunch with the in laws and the dinner with my folks. These are usually noise occasions but that’s fine as we’re all family.

    I’ve never really had all that many work functions to attend and when I did I was always most uncomfortable. If I had a choice between celebrating with a gang of people I hardly know I would much prefer spending it on my own.
    .-= Sire´s last blog ..Comments, The Lifeblood Of A Blog =-.

    • Sire I could have guessed that you have hot Italian blood racing through those veins! That’s cool you enjoy all your family gatherings – it really makes the holidays great. And I’m with you – I’m not afraid of spending an evening with a book or the internet rather than with people I wouldn’t choose to socialize with.

  6. I really love christmas – as in REALLY love christmas. Its the one time of the year I dont even mind the hordes of people at the mall, the mid-30’s women with their baby carriages (that seemingly allow them to push everyone else around), the endless lines at the cash register or the infernal noise at the malls.
    I dont mind it, but I cant take it though – after a few hours in a place like that I start getting all dizzy and grumpy and start searching for that quiet little corner where I can hide away for a while. Always figured I was just odd…

    I actually tried Klaus approach a few times at large parties, but that was no good. Taking pictures and filming has a nasty habbit of putting you “on the spot”. People most often look for or at the person filming and taking pictures, I really dont like that.
    I usually just hurry up and pop a few beers, makes everything just a bit easier.

    Oh! btw, as Klaus said yesterday (from me) its absolutely an excellent blog you have here 🙂

    • Hey Martin, welcome to Introvert Zone! I’m glad you love Christmas – there’s nothing quite like it is there, and the mood can be so happy. Oh yes, I always thought I was odd too, being fine at first, then suddenly having ENOUGH of the mall – especially since I’m a woman and many people would assume I was born loving to shop. 🙂

      That has happened to me too, taking pictures then suddenly all the little groups say, “Come here and take one of us!”

      Thanks so much for the comment – and for the kind words! Hope you keep coming back to Introvert Zone!

  7. Its that time of the year again…i should know since I work in a store that plays X-Mas songs. For Christmas, it’s been a tradition in my family to gather at my grandparent’s house on Christmas Eve. Everyone would come over to eat, take pictures, and open presents. The women are gossiping, the men playing poker, and the kids (of every age) running everywhere. Did I meantion there are over 40 of us in one house. Every year the number keeps growing. That is an overwhelming number to some people who are not use to it, but I grew up surrounded by family and I love it. I can never imagine celebrating the holidays alone…I find that idea depressing.

      • Oh yes – and I try to do as much as I can online. If my niece asks for Littlest Pet Shop, well Amazon has a great selection – no need to go to a toy store and get some really ill will toward my fellow man!

    • Jennie that is awesome you enjoy even the house that’s so very full of people – and since love it, it really makes the holidays great. I’d hate to spend holidays alone too, but I know some people do. Some older people have kids who are grown and will be at their in-laws’ for a holiday, or some may have no kids or other relatives nearby. I’m thankful for everyone while I have them around! 🙂

  8. I always feel a sense of relief when January 1 rolls around. Many people, like myself, do not have fond warm xmas memories from childhood. In a difficult family situation, the holidays just add fuel to the fire. Now that our parents are gone, we’ve pretty much quit going through the pretense of “family holidays” and usually do our own things.

    That sets me up for the pity invitation from friends…I know people mean well when they want to round up all the stray dogs in their lives for Thanksgiving dinner, but…yikes…few things are more uncomfortable than that, for me. I’ve taken to lying…I tell friend A I’m eating with friend B, etc.

    Sometimes I have regretted that decision, but I’m often quite happy to be alone on those days. I’ll get my own favorite foods and stock up movies, etc. People who enjoy being with family must picture that as the saddest thing ever, but it’s really not that bad. And it’s just one day…it passes quickly!

    And xmas music, eek! I can barely tolerate it on the first hearing, let alone #99. At one job, my coworkers knew this and would leave xmas music playing on my voicemail. 🙂

    • I totally understand. I can imagine the day will come when I find myself alone during at least some holidays too. I still don’t know whether I would go to other people’s houses or not – and would probably do what you do, say no but then sort of regret it at least at the beginning of the day itself when I have nowhere to go. If everyone would refrain from asking about it so much it might be a bit easier for folks who don’t have family plans, but I know everyone means well.

      Hahaha…the music.. 🙂 Yep, better not to let ’em know it bothers you, or you’ll be receiving all sorts of silly things, all music makers! 🙂

  9. Funny — I got my first invitation for thanksgiving after posting this yesterday. I actually appreciated it, it was nice that they thought of me.

    But two problems for introverts might be solved by different word choices. If people just offered the invitation without the question about what we’re doing, it would help. The other relates to the “are you ok” topic on here recently…if someone is concerned and asks “how are you doing?” instead of “are you ok”? it would not feel like we’re under the white spotlight at the police station, being interrogated! “How are you doing” leaves it much more open for a pleasant but noncommittal response.

    • Hi Bella, Oh that would be great if people would be a bit more sensitive with their wording! That “how are you doing” would definitely be so much better than the dreaded spotlight. Thanks for the suggestion, and I hope some people will see it and follow it!

  10. Oh geez, holidays…This is the first holiday where I’ve cooked for my parents and my little sister. And my little sister is STAYing with me (sorry to, ah, yell) in my 1000 square foot house for Thanksgiving, so it won’t be easy to get away for a bit. The closer it comes, the more I am realizing that I really am terrified. Neither mom nor little sis seem to realize that there are boundaries. Perhaps that’s the nature of family!So, thanks everyone for the escape ideas. I should insist that I need to go to the gym or run an errand or something. Because I never snap, but…ouch. What I would give to be alone with a pile of little dogs.

    • Hey Alice, Isn’t it awful – you’re already dreading it, and if you’re like me it’s making you feel a little bit grumpy even when you’re not actively thinking about it. Try to enjoy everyone, but yep, take a break from them before you really need it so you can really enjoy. 🙂 Just driving or walking away, alone, will start to help your mental state a lot. Good luck!

  11. Hi Everyone, I just found this blog and am really enjoying it. I’m in my late forties and finally found the solutions to my holiday cheer – stay in a hotel!!!!. I didn’t have a car, they just picked me up and dropped me off every day. Of course not everyone one can afford this, but if you can I highly recommend it.

    • Tervo that would REALLY be an awesome solution for us introverts and holidays. So often when I’m out of town at a loved one’s house I am torn between the strong urge to LEAVE at the end of the day and the knowledge that I’d really like to have more time with them. Going to a hotel to be alone and sleep in my own space would be ideal and would allow me to go back to their house the next day. I wish the general public would/could understand and not think we’re being unsociable, unfriendly, rude, or whatever it is they think.

    • I second the hotel solution. Traditions change (people pass on, people are born, people move, new in-laws added) and so can the logistics. Maybe it’s a needed private bath, or sleep condition, even offering that the host can get worn out too with so many bodies in the house.

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  14. What’s my survival plan for the holidays? oh man,, you just played my heart strings,,, recently i caught by the wedding fantasy,,, me and my wife are heading towards self catering cottages Scotland ,,, i am an introvert,,, but the intensity has bit decreased just after marriage,,, but not that much as i was expecting,,, Klaus,,, when i was a teenager i tried your approach but i don’t know that was not my more natural approach,,, so i stick with the more reserved approach,, i am pretty successful in that,,, anyways,,, at least i can say that your approach can work in teenage life,,, keep writing buddy,,

  15. Hi everyone,
    I just found this blog today and am really surprised at how it fits with my current situation. I met a friend yesterday and were talking about our recent holiday. My friend was kind of surprised when I told him that I spent my whole two weeks staying at home with my family. (I am working overseas btw). I’m not very sure why it happened but I feels very bad about that as if I am some kind of weird and boring person. My friend asked me what I did at home for the whole two weeks and when I said I enjoyed staying in my home with my family rather than travelling to other surrounding areas, he looked puzzled. Although I knew we were different kinds of people, my friend is outgoing and me introvert and he as well as many other people would never understand the way I do and feel, I can’t help thinking about how my friend thinks about me and how weird and boring I am to him.
    Anyway, the good thing of all those things is that it made me find out this blog (I had googled for things related to introverts 🙂 ). Now I know that I am not alone, not weird and there is nothing wrong with the way I am living. It’s really relieving. Thanks everyone for your sharing. Enjoy to be here with you all.
    Cheers.

  16. Sara @wedding photography corpus christi on

    Hahaha why you still call yourself as an introvert?? wherein fact you are gathered together. This is just a compliment.. hehhe enjoy what you have guys.

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