10 Ways to Handle Thanksgiving as an Introvert

updated May 24, 2019
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It’s taken me years to understand that being an introvert isn’t a bad thing. (After all, J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama are pretty good company to keep.) Introverts aren’t misanthropes. We don’t hate big, noisy parties or loud, communal meals. We simply get emotionally and physically drained by a lot of hullabaloo. And needless to say, that makes Thanksgiving a tricky time of year.

If you’re an introvert, here’s what you can do to get some literal peace of mind before, during, and after your holiday dinner.

1. Lose the guilt.

Yes, you can legitimately love your family and still view Thanksgiving with dread. That’s because “Introverts are actually hardwired to have a greater sensitivity to stimulation,” explains Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Santa Rosa, California. It’s not your fault that all that socializing will leave you exhausted and cranky. It’s just a fact.

2. Take care.

When you have a turkey to brine and pie crust to fishtail-braid, looking out for number one (that would be you) falls way down the priority list. But going into Thanksgiving week, “Get the sleep, rest, and energy you need to be the best you,” encourages Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. It’s not selfish to do a half-hour of yoga Thanksgiving morning — it’s self-preservation.

3. Pace yourself.

“Too often, introverts attempt to keep pace with their extroverted counterparts in order to ‘do the right thing,'” notes Manly. “A fully booked holiday schedule may be manageable and exciting for an extrovert, but an introvert will find [it] stressful.” Figure out which invitations are most important to you, then build in sufficient downtime between them. Two back-to-back Thanksgiving feasts will fill your stomach but drain your mood.

4. See the light at the end of the tunnel.

Having something to look forward to will help you get through your holiday. “Maybe it’s a massage that you have scheduled the next day, going to a movie with a friend, or just having some alone time,” says Lombardo.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

5. Play to your strengths.

Look for opportunities where you can spend one-on-one time, Lombardo suggests. Instead of trying to keep up with the non-stop banter of your more extroverted relatives, “Help Aunt Edna off with her coat and get her to a comfortable chair where you two can have a conversation,” she advises.

6. Take a timeout.

If you start feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t grit your teeth, have another glass of wine (or four), and vow to stick it out: “Give yourself permission to take a timeout,” Lombardo says. Offer to take the dog for a walk, load the dishwasher by yourself, or check on a reclusive neighbor down the street (you know, that neighbor, who … uh … only answers her door, never her phone).

7. Never say you’re sorry.

According to Manly, “You may find yourself wanting to apologize for your less sociable, more inward-oriented way of being, but no apology is necessary.” Although you might find it helpful to break down what you’re feeling to friends and family members, Manly stresses that introversion is not a defect: “You simply thrive with more quiet time, a slower pace, and social situations that are low-key.”

8. Set yourself up for success.

Throwing Thanksgiving dinner for friends and family gives you the home advantage, points out Manly. You can create a calm setting you’ll be better able to tolerate (think: gentle music, fewer guests, and a relaxed ambiance).

9. Know your limits.

While your grandma may be able to drink Wild Turkey until two in the morning, being the last guest to leave will take its toll on you. Instead, choose a realistic ETD ahead of time. For instance, if you’re invited to a party that begins at 6 p.m. but ends at midnight, try quietly departing at 9:30 p.m.

10. Recharge.

Thanksgiving is only the kick-off of a frenetic holiday season. Besides lots of socializing, you also have the added stress of family dynamics, travel, and meal prep. Figure out how to shore up your energy for what lies ahead, whether by taking a walk outside, slipping on your headphones, or reading a book — maybe even one about introverts.

Do you have any more tips for introverts during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments!