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Keep Your Cheer Intact: 16 Holiday Hacks for Introverts

I knew I was right on the brink of saying something I’d regret.

We’d been with our extended families for eight days straight. When you live 600 miles away, your visits tend to last long when they happen. And because that time together is so rare, you want to make every minute count.

So for the last eight days, I’d stayed up late talking with siblings and cousins. I’d gone to holiday concerts and ice skating rinks and eaten every meal with no fewer than fifteen people.

It was all great—memories for myself and my kids that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

But at the same time, and through no fault of anyone else’s, I was getting agitated. The idea of going to one more event practically gave me hives, and little things people did or said were starting to wear on me.

A girl can only take so much togetherness!

Especially when that girl happens to be an introvert and a highly sensitive person.

When Introverts Are Pushed Too Far

Whether or not you travel to see family during the holidays, the season tends to be sensory overload for anyone. Santa visits, music concerts, work parties, service projects, family traditions that take you outside of your home… It all adds up.

And if we’re not careful, it can result in actions we’ll regret.

Are any of these familiar to you? 

A critical word, spoken too hastily because your reserves were so low.

Presence without presence. You may show up for everything, but your heart isn’t into it anymore.

Total withdrawal until you can put yourself back together again.

Maybe There’s Another Way

But what would it be like to purposefully design a holiday season that suits your nature? To do the good stuff with the people you love without sacrificing your sanity?

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

I hope these tips help you honor the part of yourself that thrives at a slower pace, enjoys deep conversations with people you care about, and savors a quiet night at home when it’s cold outside—while also allowing you to fully experience the magic of December.

16 Holiday Hacks for Introverts

1. Do your holiday shopping online!

The list had to start here. What introvert wants to spend a Saturday in a crowded mall? Online shopping was invented for us. {Related: 10 toys even minimalist parents can get behind}

2. Envision your holidays in advance. 

Going into the season with a plan can take you SO FAR in preventing introvert burnout and allowing you to jump with two feet into the activities you choose to participate in. You might even consider choosing *one word* (like “cozy,” “connected,” or “un-rushed”) to be the guidepost for the season you want to experience.

3. Try to anticipate your needs and communicate them to a spouse or best friend. 

It helps to have someone on your team. Talk through the month (week by week, day by day) to make sure you’re both on the same page. You can also use your spouse or a friend as an accountability partner—someone to make sure you don’t overbook yourself and that you follow through on self-care. (See tip 14.)

4. Deliberately and significantly reduce your number of must-do traditions.

One reader said the only traditions she and her family commit to are visiting Santa, making Christmas cookies, and participating in their local angel tree. Anything else is just a bonus. I was inspired by how freeing this sounds. Instead of trying to make everything fit, make room for the essentials first and let the rest happen as it may.

“Let the things that are important take center stage.” Peter Walsh

5. For the traditions you want to keep, look for low-key options. 

A reader named Allison said it well:

“We find the smaller, quieter Santa opportunities. Our local community theater has a Santa… with no lines and no crowds. Just perfect. We used to do the big box outdoor store Santa experience, but it became too much. If that’s all you have nearby, go at off hours.”

Look for workarounds that better suit your introverted personality.

6. Get in a good headspace for events by spending time outdoors beforehand.

I loved this tip from a reader and think it could be especially powerful if you have any strained relationships with people you’ll be seeing during the holidays. Nothing helps me feel clear-headed and grounded like some time outdoors. Use it well!

7. Consider prioritizing your social invitations by size of the event and likelihood of you having meaningful conversation. 

Small talk kills us, but meaningful conversations? Those are well worth showing up for.

8. When in doubt, say no.

As hard as it is, if it’s not an immediate yes!, it might very well need to be a no. If you want to be sure you can really engage with your loved ones for the events you accept, that means choosing carefully.

I think no’s are best received when we share a bit of our honest truth when delivering them. Here are a few sentences to experiment with:

  • “We’re really prioritizing family time this holiday season. The years are going by too fast!”
  • “We’re trying out a different pace this year.”
  • “I’m working hard not to let myself juggle too many things, so I’m going to have to pass this time.”

More ideas here: The art of saying no

9. Take two cars, or plan for an early exit. 

This is something I do with my husband, who’s a total extrovert. I’m happy going to an event for a little while—having a few good conversations and watching my kids light up with holiday wonder—and then leaving before my nervous system decides to shut down. Taking separate cars gives us both the flexibility we need.

10. Give yourself a mission at events: be a noticer. 

One of an introvert’s superpowers is reading the feelings and needs of others. If you’re at a party, make it more meaningful by watching for people who could use an extra hand or a friend to talk to.

11. Consider hosting. 

Introverts feel most at ease in their own space. So while it may be more work to host, it actually may be more comfortable and more fun for you. Just remember (1) to keep it easy, and (2) people are craving authenticity (i.e. your shindig doesn’t have to be perfect). 😉

12. Declare certain days socializing free.

For example, have dinner at the grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve, but reserve Christmas Day for just your family. One reader said they do events and activities up until Christmas, but they save the days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve for laying low and connecting at home. (Don’t mind if I do!)

13. Every so often, leave it all behind and take a trip with just your family.


14. Double up on your self-care.

I feel like this tip should be double bolded. Maybe fluorescent?

Self-care is essential for introverts year-round; it gives us the time we need to let our minds wander and to fill our souls back up so we can take on the world again. But the thing is, it can feel… optional. So when life gets busy (as it usually does this time of year), we’re too quick to let it go.

Don’t. Just… don’t.

I’d argue that we never need it more than when we’re busy. That downtime helps us re-prioritize and allows us to give our best energy to the things that matter. {24 self-care practices for moms}

Now for one more don’t

15. Don’t skimp on sleep! 

It’s so tempting when you have gifts to wrap and an elf to hide to stay up much later than you like to. Resist the urge, my friends!

16. Regroup by focusing on the things you love about the holidays. 

When you’re tempted to dwell on how tiring Christmastime can be or how awkward it is to spend time with your great uncle so-and-so, reframe. Do a gratitude walk, look back through old holiday photos, watch the magic reflecting in your child’s eyes… Remember what it is you love about this time of year.

A big thanks to my friends in our Facebook group for introverted moms for adding your ideas to this post!

If this struck a chord with you, I’d love to point you to my ecourse, Talked Out, Touched: Learn to Thrive as an Introverted Mom.

Registration will re-open in the spring; enter your into below to receive a free PDF of tips for introverted parents and be first to know when it opens.


  • Reply
    December 6, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks for this! I love watching for someone who might need a hand. I’m going through a grieving holiday this year. This idea really speaks to me as someone who wants relief from holiday expectations.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      December 6, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      I’m inspired by you, Hannah—wanting to watch out for someone else when *you’re* going through something hard. Sending love!!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    I… I Just can’t. My husband is a totally extrovert, and really does not get my need for quiet time. Taking two cars is an exaggeration for him, he says it looks like I don’t really want to be there. And what about hosting? Besides the cooking and cleaning I’d have to do myself, I’d have to listen to endless criticismo by my in laws: salt is not enough or had to be added before cooking, something had to be cooked more or less or differently and so on. Also, I have to endure endless criticism because I choose to buy gift only to children and donate the rest of the money I’d spend.
    Planning is impossible since my in laws decide on the same day of the event if they are hosting/coming, and it puts me in the position of being not able to tell my relativs
    if we are going or not. I am happy to spend Christmas time with my girl, but if I think of all these situations I get sick. Worst thing is, I don’t know how ti get out of this whole situation

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      December 8, 2017 at 9:44 am

      I’m sorry, Chiara. That sounds hard. I wish I could offer some help or advice, but just know that I’ll be thinking of you this holiday season!

  • Reply
    December 7, 2017 at 3:07 am

    I did say No to all of that a long time ago, Xmas in my family was a completion, more food, more gifts, my mother wanted everyone to be well dressed etc, no I am older and wiser, don’t need Xmas to say to my daughters that I love them to the moon and back…this year, it’s one gift and not more than 10£, and if it’s hand made it’s paradise for me, Xmas card made by my grand sons is heaven, just a simple meal and we are all happy…

  • Reply
    Krista O'Reilly-Davi-Digui
    December 7, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    Fortunately, my entire family is content to keep things simple and on the down-low;) My big kids can head out on their own to see friends if they wish, of course. We don’t have extended family around and many, many years ago opted out of driving on winter roads to gather for big (noisy) holidays. Instead, I make an effort to travel in spring and fall to see my siblings, one on one. Feels good for this introvert.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      December 8, 2017 at 9:41 am

      I love that workaround, Krista. Keeps the holidays more simple and homey. <3

  • Reply
    December 8, 2017 at 1:20 am

    Love these tips Erica! I’ve done lots of No. 8 this year and would LOVE to embrace no. 12!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      December 8, 2017 at 9:41 am

      12 sounds dreamy, right?! I’m shooting for some of that this year, too. 🙂 Thanks so much for visiting, Emma!

  • Reply
    December 12, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    I needed to read this today! I am about 60/40 on the intro/extrovert scale, and I find my biggest problem is over commitment. It all sounds great when I first hear about it and say that we will go, but by the time the actual event rolls around, I often find myself dreading it. I need to learn to say “no” gracefully after I’ve already given a tentative yes.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      December 15, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      I’m glad this came at a good time for you, Sarah! Happy holidays!

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