Every year I hear from introverts who say the holiday season is overwhelming. I’ve been there too. If it’s the most wonderful time of the year, why do we want to cancel everything sometimes?
The answer has nothing to do with how much we love people, and everything to do with how our introvert brains and nervous systems are wired. As I explain in The Powerful Purpose of Introverts, the neurotransmitter that makes extroverts feel best is dopamine. It’s released when we experience external stimulation, something coming into our nervous systems from the outside.
Introverts naturally have a level of dopamine that feels pretty good to us, so when our systems are flooded with dopamine it’s uncomfortable and eventually exhausting.
The holidays are MUCH more stimulating than regular life. There’s more of everything–lights, music, decorations, food, people, emotions. Of course we sometimes struggle with this time of year. It’s dopamine overload.
Introverts feel best through a different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. It’s released when we do quieter activities like taking time for reflection, having a meaningful conversation, or curling up on the couch.
To make the most of the holiday season, introverts need to be strategic. This means limiting the amount of exernal stimulation we experience and also planning downtime. For example, if you’re going to be with family then schedule time for solitude the next day.
Honoring who we are as introverts can help those around us too. A few years ago I wrote a post about what introverts give our world during the holidays. We offer gifts like reminding the world to slow down, focus on what matters most, embrace peace, and find rest.
There’s no right way to celebrate the holidays. As introvert Andrea Debbink says in her helpful article, An Introvert’s Tips for Loving the Holiday Season:
“The bottom line for me is this: The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy and celebration. When I take care of myself in these ways, I’m more joyful and better able to connect with people. And instead of facing the season with anxiety, I’m able to face it with hopeful anticipation.”
Wishing you many silent nights,
Author & Your Introvert Coach
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