Introversion is a spectrum, all of us are on it -- some of us are mild introverts and crave alone time less often than those of us who are strong introverts (who do best with a healthy amount of low-key time). Holidays can be especially hard for those of us on the introvert side of things.
Company parties, family dinners, friend events, crammed stores, non-stop social invites -- all of these are designed for the stimulus-seeking extrovert. But what can you do if you feel like the holidays are just a long series of exhausting situations? Don't take it lying down (or do, naps are great!)! Below are three easy things you can do to stay sane and energized during the holiday season (or help out your introvert friends and partners :)
- Sneak in quiet-zones "Quiet-zones" are both chunks of time and physical environments. They can be just 15 minutes long, or a full evening. They can include taking a walk around the block, or taking a whole quiet room up for yourself. Why are quiet-zones critical for our introvert-side? Because keeping our neurotransmitters balanced requires quiet zones --- acetylcholine, the lovely chemical that helps us feel good from quiet thinking time, is incredibly important to introverts, but you can't get acetylcholine in a loud or hyper social environment, it's just too much stimulus to allow for inward thoughts and quiet thinking. You can however sneak in quiet-zones for yourself -- plan to squeeze them in advance or make a habit of taking a break for every hour of social time. Here's two examples:
Take a walk: Tell your date or partner that after an hour at the party or dinner, you'll likely be ready for a little 15 min walk around the block so you can rest your brain and recalibrate. Tell them you're happy to do it together or alone (and be honest about which you're ok with). Even just 15 minutes can be enough to get a dose of acetylcholine and reset the brain. Although it might feel odd the first time you ask for it, I've found friends and family to not only be supportive but also intrigued, and some even say "I love that -- I could really use that right now too!".
Camp out in a low-stimulus area: If I plan to be at a social event for more than an hour, I always scout out an area that is a little more low-key. If at a friend's or family member's house, the kitchen (while bustling) is the best place for me because I usually only have to talk to one person at a time there, and can talk to them for longer periods of time ( i.e. less small talk -- which introverts tend to dislike). I have a friend who hangs out on front porches by default at social events (even in cold weather) because she finds it's her preferred low-stimulus area (that doesn't make her feel outright anti-social).
- Prep a discussion theme
This one sounds dorky, but it's helped me enjoy social events so much more since learning about the idea from a friend. A "discussion theme" is a theme for what kinds of questions you ask people. For example, at a Friendsgiving I might decide it's "What's a new thing that you're thankful for this year?" or for a Christmas dinner it might be "I'm collecting answers from everyone -- what TV show would you recommend to watch on these rainy/snowy nights, one that makes you feel super good about life and humans?". Why is having a theme helpful? Because introverts tend to hate small talk (the lack of depth feels incredibly draining to introvert brains), so having a theme helps you skip the shallow talk and go straight to an interesting, focused conversation.
- Bring your own focus
An extra drain during the holidays is the high number of mostly unstructured hyper-social events. The lack of structure usually means that we have to bounce from conversation to conversation, have aimless conversations, or worse have to think of interesting things to talk about on the spot -- all things that can be pretty rough on introvert brains.
How to minimize this? Bring your own activity when you can: At family dinners you can bring a dish to prep onsite (such as one that requires meticulous chopping/peeling/etc :) or a dish to tend to (such as cooking fresh tortillas or pancakes -- that's a solid 30 minutes there of a focused activity :). Alternately, I might bring a little fun thing for kids or adults to make -- for example a stack of paper and a handful of scissors to make snow flakes together, or popcorn to pop and make a super long garland with, or sugar cookies from the grocery store with a bunch of frosting colors for everyone to frost their own cookie.
By bringing your own activity, you help yourself and other introvert-minded folks have something interesting to focus on and that doesn't depend on coming up with a conversation topic on the spot or aimless small talk. Plus you might even start a new tradition to boot!
Our hope for you is that whichever holidays you celebrate, you honor your brain and its needs during this season -- and in doing so, make it fun and energizing for other introvert brains too (who might be silently suffering).
What are your tips for taking care of your brain during this social season? Share your tips with us on Instagram (@1111supply).