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Holidays as an Introvert: My Top 5 Survival Tips

I’m dreaming of a . . . quiet Christmas.

Remember that scene in The Christmas Story, right before Ralphie finally finds his Red Rider BB gun carefully hidden in the back corner of the living room? It was the moment after everyone had opened all their presents; Randy was asleep on the floor with his favorite Christmas toy snuggled under his arm, tinsel and wrapping paper covered every inch of the floor, and Ralphie’s parents were lazily chatting while the morning’s chaos slowly cascaded to a halt around them.

That is my absolute favorite moment of the year. The moment when all the preparing is over, all the presents unwrapped, all the gifts given, and the house settles into a heavy-laden moment of contentment and joy. The joy that’s only experienced when it’s all finally over until next year.

Will the real introverts please stand up?

Hi! My name is Chelsea Ellingson and I’m a grade A, class-act introvert through and through.

No, I don’t hate people and socializing. No, I’m not an agoraphobic. No, I don’t live in a cave (although I may or may not dream about it at times…). I just get overwhelmed when I have to be “on” for too long, and I recharge by turning “off” and spending time alone for a little while.

The holiday season, however, can burn out even the most seasoned and experienced extroverts, leaving us introverted moms to drown in a giant vat of social gatherings, parties, school events, and frequent trips to crowded shopping malls.

Yes, I physically shuddered as I typed “crowded shopping malls,” and I may or may not start waking up in cold sweats at night over my own family’s Christmas list.

So here are some tips from an introverted mom who has somehow survived every holiday season for the last thirty-something years I’ve been on this earth. I got you, ladies.

1. Cancel all the thingsintrovert recharge

Okay, not really, but don’t be afraid to cancel some things, as necessary. Or better yet, just plan ahead and really scrutinize your schedules from here to Christmas to make sure you do JUST the things that matter most to you and your family (I say as I laugh and laugh and laugh…).

I’m admittedly not a great planner, but I’m slowly learning that it’s better to prepare ahead of time rather than back out of everything because I hit the limit of what I can handle within a week after our first excursion. PACING is key. PRIORITIZING is key.

2. Balance all the things

I love me a good night of Netflix and snack binging as much as the next overworked mom, but I don’t love waking up the next day realizing I was supposed to bake sugar cookies for my second grader’s class to decorate and didn’t go shopping for the canned food drive for my middle schooler’s advisory class. It’s important to do the things you say you’re going to do, but be sure to space it out with lots of room to recover in between.

At the same time, too much introvert recovery time can be a dangerous thing. For me, personally, it can border on me going into a depressive crash, so self-love and care is sometimes spelled “get ‘er done.” But again, if all else fails, make sure you carry around a “cancel all the things” button in your purse for emergencies.

3. Recover with activities you actually enjoy doing

Introverts are known for their at-times crippling empathy, and it’s easy to think that what everyone else in your family considers “leisure” is what you need, when in reality it’s just another thing on your emotional “to do” list.

Heading to a dinner with friends might be a “night off” for your spouse, when for you it’s totally winding you up at the end of the day. The kids may be checking out with a family movie and popcorn, but you’re still prepping for the bedtime routine when the movie is over and aren’t 100% “off” yet. So when you’re looking at planning personal time to recharge in between the chaos, make sure it includes activities that you personally love to do.

introvert relax

I recall a pivotal moment with a relatively new therapist who had spent a few sessions listening to me describe all the things that were causing me stress and anxiety. He finally stopped me one day and asked me when I had last taken a night for myself to take a bath and listen to relaxing music. I told him I honestly hadn’t ever done that specifically, so he then assigned me that activity to accomplish during the following week.

A few nights later, I did just that. I drew up a bath, pulled out the candles, put on some music, even added some bubbles (pulled out all the stops, guys, bubbles are super fancy…), and twenty minutes in slipped into the deep, relaxing feeling of…being bored to tears. I was not relaxing even a little, and I kept thinking, “This doesn’t feel relaxing, it just feels like a waste of time.”

But then the next day I found myself with some extra free time again spontaneously, so I pulled out a book and went out onto my covered porch on a warm spring day. A storm rolled in and it started raining, and I read for hours on our porch furniture. I could physically feel the knot in my chest loosening with each passing page. That’s when I realized that recharging only works when you’re doing things you actually like doing. Weird.

4. Communication is awesome

Time to recharge is particularly difficult to achieve if no one in your family understands how necessary it is for you – and people in your family won’t understand how necessary it is for you unless you sit them down and tell them. Even your kids.

I wouldn’t say my spouse is a 100% extroverted, but he’s definitely a “do-er.” On average, he feels best when he has a day full of things that he accomplished, and as an introvert, I feel best when I have a day where I don’t have to do a single thing. That’s okay; it’s definitely not a divisive thing at all, but we support each other through what helps us feel best.

On some days we go out and are running from sun up to sun down, and on other days we veg out in front of the TV or play Mario together as a family for hours. Our kids know that it’s good and fun to work hard and be engaged, and they also know it’s important to have leisure time. Sometimes as a mom it’s hard to find “alone” time, but my hubby helps to take care of things when I need it most, and I do the same for him when he needs it in whatever way is helpful for him.

5. Make the holidays work for you, not the other way around

The holiday season, despite its sometimes break-neck speed, is still my favorite time of year, hands down. But I’ve come to realize and accept that surviving the holidays often means getting the proper recharge moments and protecting that time fiercely. The great thing is you always have the next year too, it keeps coming back around.

Good luck, my fellow introvert warriors. I’ll tip you a sleepy “cheers” from my own wrapping-paper- and tinsel-covered living room floor in my annual post-Christmas-chaos couch coma. 

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