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More Energy for Introverts During the Holidays

24 December 2019

Barbara read The Holidays Are Absolutely Exhausting for Introverts. Here’s How to Change That. by Emma Scheib and as an introvert, was reminded of ways to cope.  (Extraverts might find a few of these tips to be helpful, too!)

Tags: barbara read, mbti

Getting certified with my husband to teach the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in 1988 probably saved my life and definitely enriched my marriage. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but it was so helpful to learn why I was often tired when in a large group, my brain was fried by too many details, conflict drained me, and flexible schedules energized me. Learning how my husband and I were different and similar not only made us better consultants, trainers, facilitators, and coaches to our clients, but it also helped us to be better partners to one another and better parents to Allison and George.

In her post, Scheib wrote, “I feel like the holiday season can be a survival-of-the-fittest situation, and I’m well and truly over running the festive marathon and trying to keep up with the extroverts — or even those slightly less introverted than I am.”

I agree it’s harder for us Introverts to stay cheerful during the holiday season. I know some Extraverts who struggle with the demands, too. Office, neighborhood, and charitable organization parties all in one month call for much talking. Even all the people I love in one room opening presents or sitting around the dinner table can be overwhelming.

I love my daughter Allison’s Christmas tree in Earlysville, Virginia.

Sheib has seven recommendations for doing it differently. Here’s her list and examples of how I have tried them—some in the past and some this season.

  1. “Inject a bunch of white space into the season.” I decide how many social events I want to do the two weeks before and the week between our Christmas holiday and New Year’s Eve and say no to everything else once I’ve met my quota. I’ve heard some people say they open presents at their house when they wake up, have lunch at their in-laws and dinner at their parents all in one day. That may seem fair, but it is probably just too much for an Introvert. Our parents lived out of town, so we saw one set at Thanksgiving and the other at Christmas, changing each year.
  2. “Utilize white noise as much as possible.” I sleep with a fan on and leave it on in the morning while I’m getting dressed so I can’t hear what’s going on before I go out to join everyone. I sometimes watch snatches of movies on my favorite device with ear buds in my ears.
  3. “Build my reserves now.” I create as much alone time in advance as I can. When I had young children, I got a sitter so I could go somewhere alone. One Christmas when we spent the holidays with my husband’s parents, I was working on my Masters dissertation. I spent many hours in their camper that was parked in the garage. They offered it, entertained my 7- and 10-year-old-children, and acted as if what I was doing was important. I’ve always been grateful for their generous attitude.
  4. “Tell the truth and don’t apologize for who I am.” One year when we were in Florida and had our first 6-foot artificial tree, I was furious that no one was around to help me take it down. I picked up the tree with its lights still on and threw it in the garage. The sound of glass breaking on the cement was very satisfying. But it was also over the top, which had me realize that this is what happens when I don’t tell my truth. I started asking for what I needed and saying no to what didn’t work for me. I’ve come a long way from throwing Christmas trees. This year I told a friend, “I don’t want to go to the Service of Lament at church.” Years ago, I might have felt guilty for not supporting our new programming or being with my church community, but now I know that service would not be good for me right now, and I said so.
  5. “Let go of perfection and don’t try to do it all.” I don’t fix as many dishes for the big meal as my mother did. My house starts out in good shape, but after everyone arrives, I don’t care what it looks like and don’t work to clean it up. There are shoes at the door, beds unmade, dishes around the house, chips on the floor. The only thing I do is keep loading the dishwasher.
  6. “Have an escape plan and use if needed.” I go to my office, close the door and listen to a relaxation exercise on my iPhone. I can also rest and regroup in the bathroom.
  7. “The last step? Learn.”

Here’s something I learned, but it took a few years: In addition to being an Introvert, I have an unusually high desire to try to make everyone happy. I’m like a radar machine sending out silent signals. I would look around the room and think—Are you happy? Are you happy?  What could I do to make you happy?

The downside is I can do it too long and suddenly feel put upon and angry without realizing I have martyred myself. No one else asked me to make and keep them happy. I finally realized I had to do better. When we moved back to Charlotte, I found a new counselor. (I always say counselor because it sounds less serious than therapist.)

She said, “The next family gathering, you are to ask yourself every hour or every minute—What would make me happy?” After I tried out that advice, felt much better, and told Allison about it when the holiday was over, she said, “And we were damn happy not to have you messing in our minds.”

I am thrilled any time family members are coming to celebrate the holidays with me. My grandchildren are 12, 14, and 16. The cheerfulness quota goes up the minute they walk in the house, and I am so grateful. I love doing things to make everyone happy because the truth is—if everyone is having a good time, so am I. But I’ve learned I need to watch myself and not overdo it, especially if I see that whatever I’m trying is not working. Then I switch to the question what will make me happy? All my family members know I'm an Introvert and will be sneaking off from time to time.

How will you take care of yourself this holiday season?

p.s. Please let me know if you're interested in the MBTI for yourself, your team, or your family. It's one of our favorite assessments at Allison Partners for helping people see similarities and differences in the mental processing preferences of others - their decision-making styles, their approaches to teamwork and relationships with co-workers and friends, and their communication styles. I'd love to talk with you about the possibilities, or you can always learn more at the Center for the Application of Psychological Type.


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