The introverts' guide to making it through the holiday season

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(NEW YORK) -- "Rockin' around the Christmas tree" or going to a "Christmas party hop" make for good holiday song lyrics but are the stuff of holiday nightmares for people who identify as introverts.

A night out making small talk at a holiday party would require at least one night or more of solitude to recharge for an introvert, who find time alone as nourishing for their bodies as eating or sleeping.

That's hard during the holiday season when there is seemingly, for most people, an endless calendar of events, parties and the social pressure to charge full force ahead with holiday spirit.

"I joke that you can tell the extroverts from the introverts by how long they stay at a party," said Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and the author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength. "The introvert may have a good time and enjoy a mood boost initially and then just get worn out and need to go home, while an extrovert is going to get more and more energized by the action."

Introverts -- people who thrive in smaller gatherings of people and need alone time to recharge -- don't have to go in full Grinch mode though and hibernate for the holidays.

Helgoe points out that introverts are not shy or anti-social people, they just don't get the same stimulation from being the center of attention that extroverts do. There are ways then for introverts to both enjoy the holiday season and preserve their sanity.

Try these six tips from Helgoe and Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., also a clinical psychologist and the author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life you Love:

1. Check your calendar: Right now, take stock of all the holiday commitments and invitations you have through the New Year, recommend both Helgoe and Lombardo.

Make sure you include everything from going shopping for gifts to family get-togethers, office parties and time with friends. Then, be proactive about making your schedule work for you.

"The problem with the holidays is we feel like we have to take what is presented to us, either take it or leave it, and we can’t choreograph our own holiday season, but if we do think ahead we can do just that," said Helgoe. "Ask yourself, 'What do I enjoy most during the holiday season and what do I hate?'"

"If you hate going to the mall, figure out how much can you order online, or if the work party stresses you out, figure out a plan to make it less stressful or plan out an alternative," she said. "Use your planning capacities to pre-think through scenarios and think about what you would like this holiday to look like."

Helgoe also recommends planning recovery time for yourself, so if you have a work party on a Thursday night, make sure you carve in extra me-time on Friday.

2. Feel good about saying no: Though this can be difficult for introverts who feel guilty, start by saying no -- no to holiday parties and no to events that are going to leave you drained.

Then, if you change your mind and feel able to attend, it's a bonus for both you and the person doing the inviting.

"A trap introverts can get into is we say yes to something that is really a no and then make excuses or just don’t show up and then feel more guilty," said Helgoe. "People will feel more happy that you changed your mind and want to come."

3. Reframe the holiday season: Yes the holiday season means social events and gatherings, but it also can mean one-on-one time with friends, sipping hot cocoa and staying inside because it's cold out.

"Winter months draw us inward so they are more introverted in a way," said Helgoe. "The spirit of reflection, the twinkling lights and hot beverages and sitting by the fire, all those aspects of the season are very appealing to introverts."

Helgoe suggests saying yes to those aspects of the holidays, like walking and looking at Christmas lights with a friend, going to a movie with family or having a small group over for a dinner party.

4. Think before, during and after: Lombardo has clients think through what they will do before, during and after an event to help themselves manage any stress or discomfort.

Ask yourself what you can do before the event to make sure your stress level is as low as possible, whether that is spending time alone, going on a walk or meditating.

Then, think about what you can do during the event to reduce stress, like finding a spare room for some alone time. Also seek out jobs that will both be helpful and give you time alone, like volunteering to pick up a family member at the airport, volunteering to take photos, taking the dog for a walk or driving to the grocery store for last-minute ingredients. At a party outside the home, see if there is a task the host will let you take on, like mixing drinks or handing out name tags at the entrance.

If you are hosting an event, think of an activity like a game to play or a craft or food to make that can be something to focus on.

Lastly, think about your reward for after the event.

"If you’re at a party and you know when this is over you’re going to have time to yourself, you can enjoy yourself more," said Lombardi. "Have that carrot waiting for you."

5. Memorize this phrase: "Tell yourself, 'This is who I am and I’m going to do the best I can,'" said Lombardo.

The best thing introverts can do is embrace who they are because there is nothing wrong with who they are or the way they are wired to socialize, she explained.

6. Keep up your self-care: Self-care is something that can get tossed aside during the holidays, but for introverts especially it's critical to keep your routine, according to Helgoe.

"Whatever you do to replenish yourself, not only make sure that that's in place but you may need more of that," she said. "Giving that up during the holidays is giving up something that helps you cope better."

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