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7 Ways To Make Holiday Parties Less Stressful If You're An Introvert

Don't forget to schedule in some time for yourself after the party.

Nobody really enjoys making small talk with their coworkers at holiday parties, but for introverts, that chit-chat can truly feel like a nightmare before Christmas.

There's nothing wrong with low-key (or high-key) dreading all of the loud, drunken social interactions you have to endure this month, especially with your colleague Carol who won't stop telling you about how much she has to spend on gas to visit her sister in Ohio this year, but that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy the festivities in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
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There's nothing wrong with low-key (or high-key) dreading all of the loud, drunken social interactions you have to endure this month, especially with your colleague Carol who won't stop telling you about how much she has to spend on gas to visit her sister in Ohio this year, but that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy the festivities in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you head into holiday party season:

1. Decide which parties you actually have to attend.

First things first: You're allowed to say no. If any of the holiday parties you've been invited to are going to do nothing but melt you into a puddle of anxiety à la Frosty the Snowman, prioritize your mental health and politely decline ("I'm so sorry, but I won't be able to make it! Thank you for the invite!"). I used to accept every invitation I got from friends — even when I was feeling too stressed or burnt out to go to their party or out to a bar — until a therapist told me how unhealthy it is to say "yes" solely out of fear of disappointing people. To use her words: "They're adults. They can handle it."
Vasyl Dolmatov / Getty Images

First things first: You're allowed to say no. If any of the holiday parties you've been invited to are going to do nothing but melt you into a puddle of anxiety à la Frosty the Snowman, prioritize your mental health and politely decline ("I'm so sorry, but I won't be able to make it! Thank you for the invite!"). I used to accept every invitation I got from friends — even when I was feeling too stressed or burnt out to go to their party or out to a bar — until a therapist told me how unhealthy it is to say "yes" solely out of fear of disappointing people. To use her words: "They're adults. They can handle it."

2. Bring a plus-one if you can.

If you do feel up for the party, see if you can bring a friend or significant other along. It's immensely helpful to have Your Person with you going into a social situation that could be, well, incredibly awkward. Having them by your side might give you the lil' confidence boost you need to talk to new people, get out on the dance floor (IDK, how rowdy is this holiday party??), or, if it's a family gathering, swiftly exit a conversation with your uncle who loves chain-emailing misguided political memes. Their support should help you navigate the night.
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If you do feel up for the party, see if you can bring a friend or significant other along. It's immensely helpful to have Your Person with you going into a social situation that could be, well, incredibly awkward. Having them by your side might give you the lil' confidence boost you need to talk to new people, get out on the dance floor (IDK, how rowdy is this holiday party??), or, if it's a family gathering, swiftly exit a conversation with your uncle who loves chain-emailing misguided political memes. Their support should help you navigate the night.

3. Take small breaks when you need them.

If you're feeling overstimulated by all of the loud music, conversation, alcohol, and blinking lights, that's fair! It's more than OK to sneak away for a few minutes to re-center yourself. Find a quieter place — a side room, a bathroom, behind some plants (hey, no judgment!) — and do something that helps calm your mind. You could focus on your breathing and count each inhale and exhale up to 10. You could scroll mindlessly through Instagram. You could simply shut your eyes for a few moments. Do whatever helps you feel a bit more grounded before rejoining the party.
Nicoletaionescu / Getty Images

If you're feeling overstimulated by all of the loud music, conversation, alcohol, and blinking lights, that's fair! It's more than OK to sneak away for a few minutes to re-center yourself. Find a quieter place — a side room, a bathroom, behind some plants (hey, no judgment!) — and do something that helps calm your mind. You could focus on your breathing and count each inhale and exhale up to 10. You could scroll mindlessly through Instagram. You could simply shut your eyes for a few moments. Do whatever helps you feel a bit more grounded before rejoining the party.

4. Remember that it's okay to listen more than you talk.

A Harvard study showed that — brace yourself — people LOVE to talk about themselves. Shocking, right?? Okay, maybe not, but those findings bear repeating: People love talking about themselves. With that research on hand, you can take some pressure off yourself if you're feeling like you have to tell the funniest stories or share the most interesting facts about your life at these parties. People will like you just the same if you're a good listener and ask some questions about that trip they took to Iceland this year.
Milkos / Getty Images

A Harvard study showed that — brace yourself — people LOVE to talk about themselves. Shocking, right?? Okay, maybe not, but those findings bear repeating: People love talking about themselves. With that research on hand, you can take some pressure off yourself if you're feeling like you have to tell the funniest stories or share the most interesting facts about your life at these parties. People will like you just the same if you're a good listener and ask some questions about that trip they took to Iceland this year.

5. But still go with a few conversation starters in mind.

If the conversation does start to run dry, take the stress of ~winging it~ off your plate and prepare some questions beforehand that are guaranteed to spark discussion (I don't care if that sounds lame, you'll THANK ME LATER): What's their favorite holiday movie? Is there a gift they had to have this year? How do they feel about New Years resolutions? Did they have a goth phase? You get the idea. And if you don't, here are some other questions to consider.
Michael Discenza / Via unsplash.com

If the conversation does start to run dry, take the stress of ~winging it~ off your plate and prepare some questions beforehand that are guaranteed to spark discussion (I don't care if that sounds lame, you'll THANK ME LATER): What's their favorite holiday movie? Is there a gift they had to have this year? How do they feel about New Years resolutions? Did they have a goth phase? You get the idea. And if you don't, here are some other questions to consider.

6. Have an exit strategy.

Head into the party with a time you'd like to leave by in mind. This will make the night seem more manageable, and set you up to feel pleasantly surprised (and maybe even a little proud of yourself) if you stay longer than expected. There's also nothing wrong with calling yourself a car and leaving early if you're still feeling uncomfortable or socially spent after taking those lil' breaks. Don't push yourself because you're worried you might offend the hosts. Just like declining an invitation, the same applies to making an exit: They're adults. They can handle it.
Martin-dm / Getty Images

Head into the party with a time you'd like to leave by in mind. This will make the night seem more manageable, and set you up to feel pleasantly surprised (and maybe even a little proud of yourself) if you stay longer than expected. There's also nothing wrong with calling yourself a car and leaving early if you're still feeling uncomfortable or socially spent after taking those lil' breaks. Don't push yourself because you're worried you might offend the hosts. Just like declining an invitation, the same applies to making an exit: They're adults. They can handle it.

7. And schedule in some alone time for after the party.

If holiday parties tend to rattle your nerves, leave yourself some time at the end of the night to decompress (factor this in while you're figuring out what time you'd like to leave the party). There's nothing worse than coming home after a full night of socializing and going straight to bed. Give your mind a chance to unwind after all that conversation and treat yourself to a warm shower, some soothing tea, or a good book. Alone time is the ideal way for an introvert to recharge, am I right?
Jacoblund / Getty Images

If holiday parties tend to rattle your nerves, leave yourself some time at the end of the night to decompress (factor this in while you're figuring out what time you'd like to leave the party). There's nothing worse than coming home after a full night of socializing and going straight to bed. Give your mind a chance to unwind after all that conversation and treat yourself to a warm shower, some soothing tea, or a good book. Alone time is the ideal way for an introvert to recharge, am I right?

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