Thanksgiving marks the start of a series of special holiday celebrations for Christians. For those of us who are introverts, while holidays are fun, they can also be very stressful. Especially when it comes to gatherings.
There’s a great meme that circulates on social media from time to time. In the first panel, above the head of a sad man (extrovert) the thought bubble reads, “I’m staying in tonight.” In the second panel, a smiling man (introvert) thinks, “I’m staying in tonight!”
Generally, introverts prefer solitude (staying in) as opposed to mixing it up socially (going out). But any sense of dread has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we like the people we will be around. Rather, it has to do with the energy drain socializing has on us mentally and emotionally. Even with family.
For introverts who’ve been invited to a holiday gathering, here are some tips for joyfully surviving them:
- Learn about the event. Get as much information about the party as possible. Information is an introvert’s friend. Learning what’s going to happen and who is going to be there ahead of time helps us be mentally ready. Visualizing the event in a positive way ahead of time can reset our expectations.
- Rest before you go. Don’t head to a gathering tired or frazzled. Take a nap if there’s time. Take a shower and “restart” your day. Be refreshed when you head out the door. Even if it means you’ll be a little late, don’t rush from work to a gathering. If all you can do is sit quietly in your car for ten minutes before heading in, do it. Take time to let the day settle.
- Be positive about what will happen. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the gathering, be eager to see people you love. Look forward to enjoying one-on-one time with special friends and relatives. Build anticipation about enjoying good food. Think about how nice it will be when you are home later.
- Plan ahead who to engage with. If you know who will be at the gathering, think about those you really want to connect with. Find them and focus on them. If they are also an introvert, they will welcome the companionship. Feel free to be an observer of games or activities instead of participating. It’s okay to step outside for a couple of minutes to reset.
- Check the exits. Yes, know where the exits are and feel free to leave once you’ve reached your maximum energy expenditure. Thank the host, quietly, and slip out. It’s okay to go without spending another hour saying good bye to everyone. Leave that to the extroverts!
- Be thankful! Thank God that he made you as you are to be included as part of the body of Christ. Thank God that you are able to enjoy relationship with those who are different from you. Thank God for the restorative after-party power of solitude and sleep.
Stephen R. Clark is a writer who lives in Lansdale, PA with his wife, BethAnn, where they attend Immanuel Church. His website is www.StephenRayClark.com. He is a member of the Evangelical Press Association and managing editor of the Christian Freelance Writers Network blog (tinyurl.com/cfwriters). He is also a news writer for The Baptist Paper and contributor to the Englewood Review of Books. His writing has appeared in several publications. You can contact Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org. The content of this column is copyright © by Stephen R. Clark.