For many Americans, this is a very busy time of year. In between all of the holidays and travel, breaks from school and work, and obligations with family, friends, and coworkers, it can be difficult to not get worn out from it all. This is especially true for those who identify as introverted.
What does that mean? Unlike its use in common vernacular, introverts aren’t necessarily shy or socially anxious (though many can be). Rather, this classification, based in the work of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, is meant to identify those who prefer a less stimulating environment and gain energy from being alone or in smaller groups. Conversely, an extrovert needs more external stimulation and gains energy from being around others. While, like with many things, all of us fall along a continuum, this time of year can be especially taxing for those who need a solo recharge.
I have been spending a lot of time in my sessions with couples discussing strategies for conquering this time of year. I hear a lot of “I feel so drained after one hour with his family—how will I do a full holiday weekend?” and “Even the thought of socializing with the neighbors and their friends all night is exhausting!” At the heart of it–how do we do it all without depleting all our energy?
- DO THE PREP WORK
If you know you have a long night ahead interacting with your partner’s entire extended family, make sure you are getting the charge you need beforehand. Go for a run, take a shower, or do whatever makes you feel energized so that you don’t go into the night feeling drained.
- TAKE BREAKS
You are allowed to step away from the event! If your celebration is an entire day-long marathon, seize opportunities to break away from the group—walk around the neighborhood, read a chapter from a book (for more on introversion, I recommend the book Quiet by Susan Cain), or just bask in the silence.
- MOVE BEYOND SMALL TALK
Small talk can be exhausting for introverts and there is plenty of it when interacting with new people (or just those people you haven’t seen since the office’s holiday party last year). Instead of sticking with the basic chat about the weather and complaining about traffic, have some deeper questions prepared. Some examples: What are you most passionate about these days? What are your New Year’s resolutions? What’s something you’re looking forward to? What was the most interesting thing to happen to you today?
- MAKE A GAME PLAN
If you’re hoping to conquer this holiday season with your partner as a team, then you need to have a game plan as a team. Is your partner more of an extrovert? Explain what you need and brainstorm ways to get it. This will help set their expectations and prevent any miscommunication if you need to slip away for a minute. Is your partner an introvert as well? Figure out a way to tag-team the events you have coming up.
Let’s remember this time of year as one that fills you up rather than wears you out!