How to Get Through Holiday Party Season if You're an Introvert
If parties suck the life out of you, you'll need this survival guide.
Who doesn’t love a party? Introverts, actually—people who thrive in quiet, low-key settings. That makes the holiday season, from cheery office festivities to New Year's blowout celebrations, a tricky time for people who by nature get the life sucked out of them by large crowds and small talk.
“The thing about introverts is that our energy gets drained by social interactions,” Sophia Dembling, Texas-based author and writer of Psychology Today’s The Introvert Corner column, tells Health. “It's not that we don't like it, or that we're afraid of it, or that we don't like people. “It's just that it's exhausting for us, whereas extroverts tend to gain energy in social settings.”
The expectation to socialize and be entertaining typically overwhelms introverts, says Laurie Helgoe, PhD, clinical assistant professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and author of Introvert Power. “The introvert may look calm and quiet, and part of the reason is because they have a lot going on inside. They like to take things in and process it first, and the holidays are a time when they get deprived of processing time and space,” Dr. Helgoe tells Health.
Successfully navigating the season as an introvert is all about following some key advice—like these tips from fellow introverts below.
Pare down your invites
The holidays are all about tradition, so figure out which annual celebrations are actually worth the potential discomfort. “Ask yourself, what can I give up, what can I say no to this holiday season, what rituals and activities usually do not please me?'” Helgoe advises. If you know your best friend from college has a yearly New Year's Eve party that always knocks the wind out of your sails, give yourself permission to skip it. “We don't have to accept the holidays as they are packaged for us, we can package them ourselves,” she adds.
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Come up with an escape plan
As soon as the party invite hits your inbox, your introvert instinct might be to invent an excuse to get out of going. But if the host is someone important to you or you'd actually like to be there, don't ditch—just inform them that you can't stay the entire time. “I encourage people to be upfront and say, ‘I’m happy to come and thank you for inviting me, but these kinds of events tend to wear me down, so I'll probably leave at this time,’” suggests Helgoe.
It's an introvert's win-win: If the event overwhelms you, you've got an out. And if you're having fun, you can stick around. “One thing I tell all introverts is that it's a lot easier to deal with parties and go to events if you promise yourself that you can leave when you've had enough and I think that's really key,” explains Dembling. “Respect that urge to protect your energy and go, but then leave when you’re ready, even if it means driving yourself so you can escape when you're ready to escape.”
Bring a plus-one
Arriving at an event or party with a friend, significant other, or even as part of a group gives you someone you can automatically turn to when you're feeling deluged. If your plus-one knows about your introvert tendencies, they'll give you an assist with making small talk. Or they'll allow you the space to retreat and recharge for a bit by yourself, say in an upstairs bathroom or out in the fresh air on a patio.
Volunteer to help out
Standing in a crowd trying to chitchat and keep conversations going with strangers is a major introvert energy suck. The solution is to keep yourself busy. Dembling suggests creating a role for yourself at the gathering, like offering to make drinks or DJ, so you won’t feel thrown into the chaos without an anchor.
If you know you have upcoming events to attend, pencil in plenty of alone time between them. “I like to try to plan a quiet day before a busy day and a quiet day after a busy day, says Dembling. "It's about managing your energy and recognizing in yourself when you're starting to get overextended and drained." Timeouts are helpful during a party as well; even 10 minutes away from other guests in a quiet part of the room will help clear your headspace and put some gas back in your tank.
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Have conversation starters ready
Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you're shy or that you don’t like talking to people; it's just that large social settings rip you out of your comfort zone. Preparing beforehand with some talking points can help the experience more pleasurable, says Dembling. How has your holiday been this season? is always a place to start, and following up with questions keeps the person you're chatting with busy, so there's less pressure on you to come up with a witty reply.
Above all, remember that it’s totally fine to not be the life of the party, and you have no obligation to entertain anyone. “You can stay on the sidelines and look for the people who are like you who don't want to compete for center space and want to have a more interesting conversation,” Helgoe says.