How Introverts Experience the Holidays

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As we near the end of 2020 — aka “the dumpster fire that seemingly never ends”– and COVID-19 continues ruining our holidays with forced shutdowns all over the world, I started to wonder, is there anyone that’s actually benefiting from the cancellation of holidays plans?

Could some people actually not just be doing well during this holiday period, but actually thriving?

As ludicrous as it seems, believe it or not, one of the (very few) bright spots of the holidays being cancelled by COVID-19, is that 20% of people are somehow feeling better than they did in previous years during the holiday season.

Say what? Who are these jerks?

Are their first names Ebenezer? Or are they just masochists?

I have to admit I did a double take when I read this headline from CBC:

“I’m so happy: why some people are glad the holidays won’t be happening as normal.”

And as a I read on about this minority group experiencing “lockdown relief,” I realized that for extreme introverts, people with social anxiety, autistic people, or people with difficult familial relationships, not having to pretend to be something they are not for hours on end is sweet relief.

In fact, one of the people interviewed in the article said they “jumped up and down like a little kid” when she found out holiday gatherings were being banned. She gets panic attacks as early as mid-Nov, just thinking about all the lights, screaming kids, and commotion, and has to sleep for 3 days straight after a single 3-hour event to recover.

Another interviewee, who self identifies as non-binary finds it triggering to have to navigate misgendering with family. They’re relieved they can just be themselves this year without the awkwardness.

Some have praised this holiday season of banned gatherings as “a year with no obligations and no pressure and no guilt…every Christmas should be like that.”

As someone who’s a bit on the introverted side, I can see where they are coming from.

Loud noises, small talk, frequent spontaneous get togethers, a packed calendar—these are all the things introvert nightmares are made of. And the holidays are where these nightmares come true.

While this may be the only year that introverts get a break from all the craziness, it doesn’t always have to be this way.

Here are some tips that can help you have an anxiety-free Christmas every year, with or without a pandemic.


Poke Holes In Your Calendar

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Is an overflowing calendar of holiday gatherings more horrifying to you than accidentally discovering an over-sized bottle of sex lube in your parents’ nightstand? If so, do yourself a favour and leave spaces where entire days are reserved for doing…absolutely nothing. It might be hard to explain to an extrovert but doing nothing is absolutely essential for an introvert. Besides, what looks like nothing to others is some much needed heavy-duty recharging for you.


Charge up ahead of time

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Like Storm from X-men, your superpower comes from re-charging. If you anticipate not having any downtime during the holidays, take a few days ahead of time to be alone, read, watch Netflix, journal, and basically be as boring as you can be from an extrovert’s perspective. This is your charge up period, and you can tap into these reserves the next time Cousin Fran or Uncle Bob wants to regale you with all the functional intricacies of their air fryer.


Skip the Guilt Trip

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Holidays are notorious for making introverts feel guilty about skipping big gatherings. Since society rewards extroverts, it’s easy for extroverts to make introverts feel they need to be “fixed” for being “anti-social” or killing all the fun by skipping events. They don’t realize that being introverted doesn’t mean being anti-social. Introverts simply get overstimulated and prefer quality time over quantity.

So, don’t apologize for needing to be yourself and skipping a few social events to feel sane. Just as extroverts need to constantly be around people, your need to do the exact opposite is just as valid.

Be honest and authentic in telling loved ones that you need time to “recharge” so they don’t get confused or offended by your need to escape.


Be Extra Helpful

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Have you noticed chores become a lot more fun when you’re an introvert at a big social gathering? Loading/unloading the dishwasher, setting the table, making the salad or dessert is a welcome distraction from having to listen to inane chatter or make eye contact with that random guy who keeps laughing and elbowing you in the side every time he makes a bad pun or the lady who can’t stop yapping about her dog’s bowel movements.

Wait, what was that? I just heard someone ask for help in the kitchen! I’ll be RIGHT back….


Have an Escape Plan

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Every plan needs an escape hatch, and if you find yourself being drained, don’t try to tough it out for fear of guilt or disappointing other people. You’ll just end up cranky and resentful later. Make an excuse and bail. Or better yet, set the expectation ahead of time that you need to leave by a certain time because of your kids, your dog, an appointment, etc. Hell, bring some laxatives and say you’ve got massive diarrhea if you have to. Make your escape and don’t look back.


What do you think of the holidays? Are you bummed that COVID-19 cancelled your plans? Or are you secretively relieved? If you’re an introvert, what your tips for escaping the madness of the holidays? Let’s hear it in the comments below.

Happy holidays, Happy New Year, and here’s to 2021 being better than 2020! After all, it can’t get worse, can it?

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23 thoughts on “How Introverts Experience the Holidays”

  1. Yep. Best Christmas ever. No crapy XMAS work lunches, no big XMAS parties or big family gatherings. Guess I must be a pretty big introvert.

    My escape plan is a nice hot warm soapy bath and a great book. After a couple of hours soaking I am ready to be sociable again.

  2. We’ve had no covid cases/deaths for over 50 days, so Christmas was pretty much as normal for us this year.
    I hosted Christmas for our family. We had 13 people.
    My very introverted son spent most of the time in the kitchen, making daiquiris and then doing dishes.
    He was able to escape a lot of the hubbub and have one on one conversations with anyone who wandered into the kitchen.
    Worked for him!

  3. Great tips! My introverted self definitely approves. I’ve used the helping clean dishes/load dishwasher trick many times to give myself a breather at large dinner parties. But I haven’t tried laxatives yet – hehe I may try that!!

    This Christmas has been a bit sucky because I love my family. But I am happy not running around to see them because I find it exhausting. I need a full day or two alone after every family gathering to recharge.

    Also, one of my in-laws is a jerk married to a narcissist who is also mean and unpleasant to be around. So I’m definitely happy to not see them this year!

    This year, in place of an in-person gathering, I had a fun but at times annoying virtual call with family – 20 screens and pointed questions from the older to younger generation (including me) about weight, marital status and when we are having kids. Sigh. :/

  4. Of my God… I’d never noticed the dishwasher thing before. I trend introverted and can totally relate to the relief when I find out that there is an “alone” job I can help out with at a big gathering. It’s been a nice relaxed Christmas with my own nuclear family, and I don’t really miss the Christmas party scene.

    That being said, I’m pretty relaxed around my own family and am kind of bummed I couldn’t go back up to Canada to visit them this year.

    Hang in there guys, and hope you have a better and more mobile 2021!

  5. Lol! I love this article. I used to be with a group of high school friends that am no longer friend with anymore that said to me am an extrovert when I said to them am introvert! Anyway, it’s said not to celebrate in a big group, but I do agree that it’s less tiring and I find myself with people who really know me inside which is the hubby. We didn’t do much on Christmas except eating homemade pancakes I made with some extra toppings that make it look like it’s restaurant made.😊 Have a wonderful new year ahead! <3

  6. I almost felt reading this that you were describing me! I cannot say that I was upset in the slightest about not having the big family Christmas this year. It was a huge weight off my shoulders and if I can be honest it was probably one of the best Christmas’ I’ve ever had. A quiet evening at home with my husband. Loved it!

  7. Good piece, however, referring to people with autism as “autistic people” is not the best language to be using. As someone who has done a lot of work in this space, the respectful terms to use would be “people with autism” or “people with special needs.”

    1. I am autistic (high functioning). It’s fine with me. People are not their traits (people with introversion/extroversion??). This isn’t that kind of article…and TBH reading “people with autism”, “a person with autism” in articles over and over is tedious and exhausting.

      Cheers – BTW another escape is to volunteer to take out the trash.

  8. As I was walking out of our living room, my wife asked if I was going to watch a movie, “no” I said, “I’m going to start on next year’s budget”. She replied “on Christmas day!”

    We met with family via Skype and House Party. It was good to be able to get the hello and thanks for the gifts in, and then turn them off and get back to our quiet introverted lives.

  9. Honestly, holidays are phenomenally good times to recharge and get away from the cluttering world. I’m not sure if it’s an introvert/extrovert thing but I personally like being away from the noise once in a while. It’s a phenomenal thing that gatherings are getting cancelled not just for safety purposes but for people to take a break and take care of themselves. Which the majority neglect to do throughout the year!

  10. 1000 times yahoo and hooray! From ferile inlaws to selfish narcissists in the blood relations, this was a tremendous relief. I am plotting more of this because LOVE IT, so much healthier this way.

  11. After reading the article, I realized that I was not the only one who hates end-of-year office parties. Another benefits of FI: no more pressure, reasons, obligations to attend office parties. Yahoo!!!

  12. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, there is absolutely NOTHING you can change that fact. Unless, you have a PHD in genes therapy and you are about to experimenting on you.

    First and foremost, proudly except who you are…”I AM AN INTROVERT!”.

    As an EXTROVERT, you need interact with others and COVID-19 posed a challenging dilemma.

    Here is a list of games plan for EXTROVERTS personalities to face the COVID-19 pandemic!
    1. List 7 important people in your life and reach out to each one of them one per week day.
    2. Find 7 public spots that you can safely access; follow mask-rule regulation and watch other from distance (just close enough that you can hear their voices).
    3. Adopt a dog – a dog will give the EXTROVERTS the inner connection with the same chemistry composition as interacting with real people.

    Good luck people!

    1. On your point about adopting a dog, please do not. Going out and getting a pet because you feel lonely is a very selfish thing to do. I really wonder how filled up the SPCAs and other animals shelters will be after covid is done because a douche felt a temporary need to not be lonely. It’s a cruel thing to do to an animal. It’s a big responsibility and you need to be willing to take care of it through its full natural life.

      1. I was not going to response to your comment because You do have a valid point.

        However, your choice of word “a douche” to anyone who get a dog (NOTE…I carefully selected the word “ADOPT” and not “BUY”) implied you might want to adopt dog yourself.

        My daughter adopted a dog from SPCAs 2 years ago and Kai has become her best of friend.

        Try to be happy Dave!

        1. I stand by the use of “douche”. Your reasoning is still a selfish reason to get a pet. Word it however you want, I know what you implied – when the good times are back and you get your kicks elsewhere, dump/dispose of the pet.

          Shame on you.

  13. I felt no pain missing holiday parties, scrambling for presents, obligatory friend get togethers. My children and grandchildren live walking distance so when the Christmas Eve (socially distanced) family gift exchange got a little over the top for me…..I just walked across the street to my house and relaxed in a hot bath and went to bed early. Now instead of a party pooper, I’m just a good Covid restriction rule follower.

  14. LOL….Diaper Donnie’s loser tanTrumps, Netflix/Prime and the Covid Lockdown made it a memorable Christmas break for yours truly. The party that I loved not going to was the one with idiots and narcissists from my workplace. Couple more tips to skip…”hey I am traveling” or just accept the invite, and don’t show up…and when the try to reach out, tell them you are/were in the ER.

  15. Our extended family is large, but most enjoy catching up yearly. We stopped the unnecessary gift giving years ago. Recently, we traded in our hectic December family Christmas party for a relaxed backyard BBQ in July. Excellent move!

  16. Happy holidays M-R. I’m a fan
    Question: How would you deal with the Exit Tax in the US? If you haven’t dealt with it, could you please write something about it? I know you like to help us in the FIRE community.
    I’m a green card holder living in the US from 10 out of 15 yrs, NW of 5M and now moving back to Hong Kong and my CPA is telling me I need to pay a huge Exit Tax. Is that really non-avoidable?

  17. Yes I’m a proud introvert! At the same time Christmas reminds me of all the dead family members that I will never see again. Then I get depressed for a long while. This year I’m glad to say that it wasn’t so devastating to me! We dropped off presents, then did the FaceTime thing. It lasted about 15 minutes, I enjoyed that. Usually it goes on for 6 to 8 hours and the next few days I’m exhausted, drained and my body aches. Christmas was just like any other day, it was very nice.♥️

  18. Love your blog FIRECracker & Wanderer! It’s like you read my mind…I experienced all of these emotions during the holidays. Why is it so hard for extroverts to understand introverts sometimes?? Anyway, keep up the great work!

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