an introvert at ChristmasI hate feeling awkward in new gatherings.

But, as long as I can remember, I struggle with meeting new people in group settings, making meaningful connections and breaking through the uncomfortable barrier of “breaking the ice.”

Even though I am a friendly person, moving beyond the meet and greet and settling in to a group can be terrifying for me, especially when people start asking me questions about me! Despite my discomfort in these settings, it doesn’t stop me from moving, discovering new groups and activities or going out of my home to new places. I just find myself being the loner more often than not.

Usually this is o.k. But the holidays get a little tricky. Maybe it is the love struck couples holding mittened hands and laughing as they walk down the road. Perhaps it is looking through windows of restaurants and seeing families and friends laughing and eating together while I often eat alone in a new city, trying to make new connections.

Whatever the reason, the sting of being an introvert and single is hard at the holidays. I know I am not alone. For those of us who need more space and quiet to reenergize and prepare, the holiday season can be viewed as an oncoming storm, threatening to blow us away with the incoming tide of increased social activities, work parties and holiday gatherings. It’s not that we don’t like going. But the stress associated with this highly social time of year can be intimidating.

The key to surviving the holiday season is not to “move out of your comfort zone” as so many experts are fond of advising. In researching for this article, other writers and experts encourage people to get out and volunteer, give and participate in multiple activities.

This is good advice and in my own writing I certainly promote the benefits of giving in the holiday season, especially if we are feeling a bit down. As Mark Twain wrote, “the best way to make yourself happy is to make other people happy.” This is a true statement.

However, we tend to give and move and party according to our personality style. And for introverts, adding a lot of parties and activities in addition to work, family and other daily responsibilities, can spell exhaustion. In fact, the more introverted a person is, the more exhausting it can be to think about all that has to be done just to go to a party. So, instead of the holiday season being a life giving time, it drains and exhausts the introvert, becoming something to dread instead of a time to enjoy.

If I don’t pay attention to how I am wired, I can end up exhausted, depleted and tired. Going to parties and other activities is great fun but I have to do a few things to prepare myself for the holiday season and its increase of extroverted demands.

  1. Prioritize times of quiet. This is essential. It’s not selfish, it is taking care of oneself so the body, mind and heart is ready to go out and participate, serve and celebrate with excellence. Too many external activities with people is exhausting for the introvert. Exhausted introverts can turn snappy, tired, weary, clumsy, and worn out. I hate when that happens. Whether it is in my job or at a party, I want to be all there, able to participate and enjoy myself. So do you.
  2. Schedule times of rejuvenating rest and stick to them. Maybe it’s going for a walk, playing basketball, staying in one night and reading a book or listening to Vivaldi, writing in a journal, talking with your spouse or best friend, scrubbing the bathtub while listening to your favorite podcast, organizing the closet or spending an evening cooking dinner. Whatever activity energizes you, make sure it is scheduled in and helps you regain the energy you need to give to others, your job, your family and other relationships in the way you want to.
  3. Pick social activities carefully. Exercise your option to say “no” and say it often.
  4. Volunteering can be done and is needed throughout the year. While the Christmas season is prime time for volunteering and giving, organizations need help throughout the entire year, not just during November and December. If you want to start volunteering, get the process started but consider beginning to volunteer in the New Year. Nowadays, most places require an application, participation in a mandatory introductory meeting and even a background check before volunteering can begin. These things can be done now or in January when a regular schedule goes back into motion.
  5. Give in a way that suits your personality. Introverts enjoy people. However, while an extrovert gains their energy through being in a group of people, an introvert’s energy level is depleted. To sustain energy levels, try finding areas of service that blend with your personality type. Cook the food in the back kitchen instead of serving it to the people. Organize, clean, decorate or join in other activities where people interaction is minimal. There are many important jobs that need to be completed that don’t require a lot of interaction with people. When you are done, feel satisfied knowing you were an integral part of the event, even if no one saw your contribution.

As introverts, we tend to swing too far on both sides of the pendulum- either we want to say “yes” to everything, leaving no time for personal needs. Or, we participate in nothing and end up hibernating for the entire holiday season. Both extreme lifestyles have more negative effects than good and we have to be careful to strike a balance.

The key to enjoying the holiday season is to go with how you are wired, not against it. It is the same philosophy Marcus Buckingham shares in his book, Go, Put Your Strengths to Work. Working on the areas that are weak as a focus point won’t help you; instead, it can be frustrating. Focusing on areas of weakness will prove minimal advancement. Working where you are comfortable and feel comfortable will work better for you and those around you.

Holidays are not just for those the extroverted and thrive on social events. We all can enjoy and rejoice in the beauty, magic and mystery of the Christmas season, even us introverts in our quiet corners.

Melissa AuClair is an author and speaker whose life goal is to help women launch their creative businesses, have fun and create beautiful lives full of laughter and adventure. She writes, bakes, schemes her next adventure and blogs at http://www.launchyourcreativelife.com while working on her art and writing projects. Her first book, Christmas in the Kitchen: A Modern Girls Guide through the Holiday Season – One Batch of Cookies at a Time, was released in 2012.

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