One of the most frustrating assumptions about being an introvert is that you’re a loner or a recluse when really, that’s not the case at all. Instead the reality of being an introvert is that we need time alone to recharge. Being around people, particularly large crowds, for an extended period of time tends to drain our energy. Extroverts on the other hand, gain their energy from these sort of social situations and in spending time with others. In a complete contrast to introverts, extroverts find that spending time alone is what saps their energy.
These explanations in themselves cause for further examination of the issue rather than a blanket definition. For me, it’s not that I don’t want to see or spend time with my friends. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I enjoy being busy, meeting new people and trying new things, just on my own terms. For me to fully enjoy these things and to also ensure I’m being good company, I have to schedule alone time in between to fully recharge my social batteries. Some days that might mean taking the entire day to myself, left to do my own thing and others it may just be a matter of spending a Saturday morning with no plans, settling in front of the tv with my magazines, enjoying my own company.
For the most part, life as an introvert is pretty manageable but at this time of year, things can get tricky. There’s a lot going on with a lot of people to catch up with in a short space of time. Time alone suddenly feels like a luxury. With Christmas parties, family get togethers and reunions with old school friends, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Factor in the bustling crowds on the streets at this time of year and it’s no surprise you’re craving an escape. When that escape feels overwhelmingly impossible, it’s probably time to try out some of these tips to help ease the challenges faced by us introverts during the holiday season.
For me, it’s a combination of the endless hosting at home and being sprung with last minute plans that pose the biggest challenges as an introvert, particularly at this time of year. With that in mind I try to be as organised as possible and mark events into my diary at the start of December. From there I can see where the free slots are and on the flip side, anticipate when overwhelm might occur, therefore making a break necessary. I find it easier to handle social situations that may provoke anxiety if I know about them as far in advance as possible.
When it comes to actually making plans, some introverts find that if they’re in control of making the plans, they seem much more manageable. Suggest an activity in environments you’re most comfortable. Chances are you’d prefer a quiet catch up over coffee with a few friends than a big night out in a group of people.
Try to schedule the events you want to attend and the self-care time needed to recharge with equal priority. Just remember to remain polite should you decide to decline certain invitations in the process.
Make yourself useful
A big distraction from social anxiety for me is finding myself a purpose in the situation. Not the deep kind of life purpose, social situations may not be the best time for those kind of personal reflections. Instead I mean the little things like helping with the dishes or clearing the table. I’m much more comfortable helping with background tasks like these however much glamour they may lack, than I am with making small talk. I find that others then start helping out too, often another introvert which serves as a natural progression into conversation, easing social anxieties once the task is finished. Not only will helping out give you a chance to catch your breath but your host will be grateful for your help too.
Sometimes it’s tough accepting your introverted ways. I’ve beaten myself up on many an occasion for not being louder, more lively, more fun but in reality there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. There’s a tendency to feel like a burden, that you should just push through those introverted tendencies for the sake of a few weeks. In reality those introverted parts of your personality are exactly that, part of who you are. In the same way that you, as an introvert, may feel concerned about being boring, extroverts face criticisms of being obnoxious and annoying too. Neither ends of the spectrum are right or wrong. So if you feel you need a break among the chaos of the festive period, go for it. Breaking out of your comfort zone is great every once in a while but respecting your own personal boundaries is of equal importance.