An Introvert's Guide to the Holidays
Since having children, my holidays have become a bit different. My kids love the activities, they love the get-togethers, and they love the over stimulation. Holidays for me are more fun now, seeing how they entice my girls to celebrate different facets of life. But they are also busier and more activity filled than in my single days. Crawling under the covers until they’re over is no longer an option, and I no longer want to miss out on the festivities that bring my family so much joy.
What resulted for many years was my simply enduring holidays, putting my own wants and needs aside, and plowing through the last two months of every year. But over time, I realized that this pattern served none of us. I wasn’t happy suppressing my needs and my immediate and extended family wasn’t thrilled about spending time with someone whose unmet needs were making her grouchy and irritable. So I had to find a way to forge ahead, into the abyss of crowds and incessant interactions, while still honoring my innate and non-negotiable needs for quiet and solitude.
Even though introversion is widely researched and documented in the scientific community, our society often doesn’t revere the needs and demands that come with that temperament. Therefore, introverts often suppress these needs, thinking that they’re selfish and not wanting to deal with the guilt that comes from valuing our own needs over those of others from time to time. Because of this, licensed psychotherapist Nicole Iacovoni has offered insight into these observations and ideas to help validate their importance.
Nicole says: Introversion doesn’t mean antisocial. Many introverts are social, outgoing, and love being around people. The difference between introversion and extroversion is the way in which we regain our energy. Introverts recharge their batteries through quiet, alone time, self-reflection, and solitary activities. Extroverts re-energize by surrounding themselves with people, seeking out activity, and engaging in conversation.
1. Be Mindful About How You Spend Your Time
Carving out plenty of alone time in a harried season requires an exquisite amount of mindfulness, but it can be done. Sometimes this involves making hard choices about the activities we participate in during the holidays, but it’s always worth the sacrifice. Sit down with your family and talk about the things that are most important or most highly anticipated about the holidays. Commit to only the actives that fall under that umbrella and leave the rest for another year.
Nicole says: This may include opting out of activities while the rest of your family participates in them. Choosing solitude instead of joining in all the holiday hub-bub might lead to feelings of guilt or a sense of obligation to participate in social gatherings even when you feel like you’ve had enough. Give yourself permission to take time alone while still allowing your family to have their fill of action.
2. Balance The Overstimulation With Time in Nature
I have to say that one of the biggest shifts in my holiday temperament has coming from including time in nature, with nature, and focusing on nature into our holiday activity schedule. My family and I make time for hiking in the woods, nature journaling, and celebrating the winter solstice with a small group of friends. Nature brings us back to the source and back to what really matters: it grounds us. We need that grounding during the holidays more than ever when blinking lights and shimmering ornaments can lead our attention far away from our truest needs.
Nicole says: Long before the holidays arrive, we are targeted by marketers. Commercialism alienates us from nature and fills our minds with ideas of needing and wanting more stuff. Advertisements are often highly effective in convincing us we need more and more to feel happy. Likewise, we feel pressure to give unto others what they really want, which further distances us from our true selves and our inner most desires. Our brains physically become overwhelmed with imagery, making it even more necessary than usual to get in touch with our natural roots.
3. Continue to Evaluate Your Needs And Make Adjustments
Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, life still starts to get out of hand mid-December. Don’t be afraid to scrap the plan, start over, and (most importantly) to let things go. You won’t be able to attend every party, see every parade, hit every event, and gather every experience. If the ones you’ve mindfully chosen are becoming too much, allow yourself the grace to re-prioritize and cull the list.
Nicole says: Try to eliminate “should statements” from your vocabulary; “I should go to the holiday party even though I don’t really want to” or “I shouldn’t stay home alone because I don’t want to offend anyone”. Directing “should statements” toward yourself results in irrational thinking and feelings of guilt. Replace “should” with “it would be nice” or “I wish” to help maintain a realistic perspective on your own wants and needs.
4. Schedule In Time To Be Alone
Any introvert knows that nothing can fill you and strengthen you like time with absolutely no one around. We need that time to re-center and quiet our minds. When scheduling activities throughout the season, and especially on the holiday itself, leave time for coffee, long walks, yoga, meditation, or whatever fills your unique cup. I like to get up early and go for a run on Thanksgiving. On Christmas Day, I go find a quiet corner to have a cup of coffee for a while after lunch, in between visits and present openings, to gather my thoughts and refuel for the rest of the day. And after several Christmas celebrations that start on Christmas Day and last the week after, I have declared New Year’s Day to be a day with just my immediate family. Simply include alone time in the monthly/daily schedule as you would allot time for making dinner or walking the dog. Start to see your own needs for solitude as being just as necessary.
Nicole says: Extending loving kindness, good self-care, and compassion to yourself might not be a regular practice, but the holiday season is a great time to start integrating nurturing your spirit. You are the expert on yourself and only you know what you truly need to feel your best. We each are responsible for taking care of ourselves.
5. Be Honest About Your Wants & Needs
You need to be extremely honest with yourself and others about what you need. And you need to be brave enough to advocate for what will meet those needs. Have those conversations with your spouse, your children, your friends, and your extended family about the kind of holiday you’re working hard to have. Don’t feel ashamed of your needs and desires. Trust that others will understand and accept you for who you are. Communicate your needs so that you can receive the support and cooperation that will help you to be true to yourself.
Nicole says: The holidays make it necessary to be assertive, which is communicating your wants and needs in a respectful way. Assertiveness isn’t to be confused with aggression or confrontation, which typically involve making demands. Rather, communicating clearly about what you need to feel good eliminates the need for others to attempt reading your mind. Humans are awful at reading minds accurately; we get it wrong and usually don’t check it out with others to see if we’ve read them right. Eliminate the potential for others to misunderstand you, or worse yet, to take it personally and assume you aren’t participating in an activity because of them.
Our society does not value peace and solitude and often you have to forge new paths into a life of holiday harmony for yourself. It’s difficult and courageous work; but, in my experience, each year it gets a little easier and each year our holidays are a little happier. When you start making mindfulness, moderation, and simplicity a priority through the holidays; you make it more acceptable for others to do the same and you encourage a whole atmosphere of honoring ourselves and our needs. The world needs more of that atmosphere. Allow honoring your own needs to be the gift you give yourself and the gift you give to the world.
Maegan Beishline is a freelance writer, photographer, and homeschooling mother of three. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing from Bloomsburg University and currently works as Marketing Coordinator for Willow Tree Wellness & Counseling, LLC.
Nicole C. Iacovoni, Founder & Executive Clinician at Willow Tree Wellness & Counseling, LLC., received her master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from The University of Denver. Utilizing scientific based techniques, she is masterful at helping clients navigate and address family transitions, mood management, relationship issues, life trajectory, and general self care concerns.