2018 Holiday Stress Management Tips: Introvert Edition

I used to enjoy the holiday season, with my young kids, and when my parents were alive. Thanksgiving was a favorite for me because it was my mother’s favorite holiday. However, since they are gone the last few years, and the kids are grown, the holidays have become a major drag. Since I have no family of my own to spend them with, it is all my wife’s family. It’s not that we don’t get along - we are just indifferent. Family gatherings are generally forced, and no one does a lot of talking - it’s so uncomfortable. It seems the get-togethers around the holidays are more out of obligation than desire. At work there are a host of activities. I used to enjoy them, with the interactions with colleagues outside the office. However, like with family gatherings, these also hold little interest for me now. I much prefer solitude, or the company of close friends that I trust.

I feel like I cannot avoid every event, much as I would like to. My main problem is I have become somewhat an introvert since my parents died, avoiding most social situations. Hanging-out for the day with my wife’s family who I see once or twice a year, or with co-workers at a holiday party, make me want to run away. I just cannot do the small-talk any more, and the thought of participating in these activities is making me feel stressed already! Especially if I am forced (which is usually the case).

Online, there are articles dealing with holiday stress management, but they seem to focus on people who may be lonely, or biting-off too many responsibilities, spend too much, etc. I assure that being lonely is not my complaint, and I am not one for piling-on additional holiday tasks (I just kinda do the minimum). I do not look forward to the holidays at all, other than getting some extra time off from work.

So, if you know the approach of the holidays will add some stress to your life, how do you handle it? I am interested in introverts, but welcome any advice.

Go skiing.

^ Right idea, wrong activity; spend Xmas at the beach, just you and the missus. Have Xmas dinner at a nice restaurant (a buffet is cool, too), swim in a hotel pool (heated, preferably), walk the boardwalk. Make it your Christmas, chuck all the stress you need to chuck.

Read Grisham’s, “Skipping Christmas,” and feel the vibe. Ix-nay to, “Christmas with the Kranks.”

The advertising mill revs up every year to crank out a lot of false expectations. Everybody in ads is having a better time than real people ever have. Of course they are, they are actors, acting happy! The point is selling truckloads of toys, jewelry, decorations, and Champagne, but it ends up making people feel inadequate, left out, and pressured into mandatory merriment. Eventually, I learned to go into holidays expecting nothing better than a regular day. l am sometimes pleasantly surprised, but seldom disappointed with the outcome.

Take good care of yourself. You have no need to overeat, over-drink, or add to the DeBeers family fortune. We’ll need you back here in January.

I am unclear about what the expectations are here - if you decided to design your own ideal holiday season, would your wife object? Or her family? Is there a reason why you don’t spend this time with your own kids and/or their families? They seem to be completely missing from the equation. If no one cares what you do, do what you want. If they do, then we can perhaps offer suggestions to reduce the stress load.

What are the expectations from work? If they don’t care whether you participate or not, don’t. If they do, then figure out what the minimum expectation is and do that. Be Zen about it.

One of my stress management tips is to maintain absolute control over my comings and goings. I never ever consent to be taken or driven to an event. My truck, my decision on how long to stay, for any event I attend.

Knowing I can bug out when I want (and doing so) is a major stress reliever to me.

I agree, exit strategy is everything. Once that’s in your pocket, you’ll def feel more at ease.

Maybe you can improve the awkward in-law times. Ever thought of bringing the fun? Perhaps an easy card game or a new and interesting board game? Not everyone will go along, but watching the ones who do might be amusing nonetheless.

Making it your own, or as you wish, is also a great suggestion. If beaches or boardwalks don’t do it, take a year off Christmas and spend it visiting your parents graves, (but mostly being relaxed and not feeling anything forced, like participation or small talk.) You may find you’ll come back around after a couple of years off doing your own thing, whatever that might be.

It kinda comes down to, ‘You don’t HAVE to care about that!’ Give yourself that permission up front. And remind your self often, ‘Do I NEED to care about this? Nope!’, and then don’t. Don’t keep revisiting it and weighing your indifference, etc. Practice a little detachment and just let it go. Remind yourself to just relax into it. Because really the external world isn’t doing this to you, your internal world is!

Good Luck!

Drink a lot before, during, and after dinner. Makes things easier.

This is a good one. Thanks for the reminder.

romansperson, I agree with what you stated about satisfying minimum expectations. The problem is whenever I put-up any resistance to what the family is planning, like suggesting we skip the usual Thanksgiving and go out of town somewhere to let someone else cook, seems to always lead to eye-rolls, and I end up getting bullied into compliance. What I was looking for here was ideas from fellow dopers on how to manage things knowing I will be getting sucked into the usual holiday schedule of events.

Gatopescado, yes! I would love to skip Christmas and go on a winter vacation. The problem is I am the only one in the household who enjoys snow-sports, so that suggestion always has ended with “…so what are WE supposed to do while you are on the slopes?..” :frowning:

That is why you go to Tahoe. Plenty for the non-skier to do while you get your swerve on. Or so I hear. I wouldn’t know, I’m always skiing. :wink:

I’m an introvert and I dislike the holidays for the same reasons you do. The difference is that I live far away from my family, and they refuse to travel to the frozen north, so we don’t have big family gatherings anymore. My wife and I used to fly back to the SF Bay Area ever year, but I can’t deal with the traffic, the crowds, the noise… you get it.

For thanksgiving we spend all day serving hot meals to the community. It gets me out of the house, I get to give back to the community, and I get a good meal out of it I didn’t have to cook. I get home about 8 pm exhausted, but I feel good about it. I’ve been doing that for the past 6 years, and I don’t see any reason to change now.

For Christmas my wife and I host a few close friends over for dinner after which we watch a movie. It’s casual and I don’t feel obligated to make small talk. I can just sit there and eat my prime rib while everybody else talks. I help my wife with the cooking and dishes, our friends come over at 4 pm and leave about 9 pm. I can handle that without too much stress. YMMV.

Well, I’d suggest, then, telling the family what you’ve said here in a kindly way - explain that for the last x years you’ve always acquiesced to their desires and that in return for that you’d like a year where you can choose what you would like to do. Tell them that you love them all dearly but you need some time this year to recharge. This is not an unreasonable demand in any way.

I know this initial conversation will not be stress-free, but it seems they don’t understand what you need, and it’s important they do for the long run and for less stressful holidays for you in the future. Otherwise, yes, you will be sucked in again and again and really there isn’t much that can be done about that other than what’s already been stated here.

I think dolphinboy has a great idea. Surely the family can’t crab at you if you are volunteering at a homeless shelter or a children’s hospital. And of course it will be an annual tradition for you from now on.

You can always find some “background” tasks to do while volunteering so you don’t have to be stressed about this either. Sounds perfect.

I’m a bit of an introvert as well. I’m not comfortable with enforced, extended family time and I can’t stand staying at other people’s houses nor having anyone stay at ours.
Luckily my wife feels the same way so we’ve established a two-phase approach.

a) since we married nearly 25 years ago we’ve never gone to any of our families to stay over a holiday period and never had them to ours. Even when there was just the two of us we had our own Christmas at home. We dropped by to say hi to the family over the period but don’t stay (we love our family, lest there be any misunderstanding here, we get on really, really well with them)

b) Since having child A and child B we’ve gone away for Christmas, skiing. Austria with all it’s lovely low-key jollity and the ability to get off our arses on Christmas Day and ski. Last Christmas we got up, opened some presents, went to ski a wonderful slope until late afternoon then soaked in the hot salty water of a local spa in the freezing open air and ordered cocktails and beers as the sky went dark and the stars came out over the mountains. Heaven. The only slight problem being that my beer was served at the correct 8C but as the air was *minus *8C I had to drink it quickly so it didn’t get too cold. (#firstworldproblems)

So that’s it really. Anything other approach would make us miserable.

If talking to your in-laws is difficult is there a board game you could bring along and play?

Or play cards. Often you aren’t the only uncomfortable bored one there.


I had a very similar problem. I don’t particularly like my in-laws and they probably don’t like me that much. They moved to the area a couple years back and now I see them way, way too much. I established that I will do Thanksgiving, or Christmas with them, but not both. Also, my wife can see them whenever she wants, but I don’t have to be there for ever visit. One thing that really made a difference was that last year, my wife and I rented a cabin over Thanksgiving for some fly fishing and the in-laws were invited to come down, with the understanding that on certain days we would be on the water and they were welcome to explore the area however they would like. Getting everyone out of their territories changed the dynamic and made for a more pleasant holiday for all of us.

When I really struggle with the in-laws over the holidays is when I feel trapped. I can get through a Christmas day and dinner okay, but if we’re staying with them it gets oppressive. As soon as I wake up, there they are and so is the unpleasant dynamic. Having a dog is a great excuse, I’d love to sit here and have the same conversation I’ve had with you people 1,000 times already, but I got to go let the dog out. Enjoy.

If all that is not possible, bring a nice bottle of bourbon for the visit and slowly drink it yourself while muttering. That works too.

I miss the big family get togethers with all the cousins. It was easy to disappear for awhile with that many other people around. I put my foot down this year and told my parents that I am NOT driving out Christmas and Thanksgiving. Pick one. So I will go to their house Christmas (700 mile round trip). there will probably be six to twelve of us at my uncle’s house. I take some hand embroidery to work on. I can listen to a conversation and make occasional comments. My mom says I should visit more. Fine. Do you want me to talk about things and people you don’t care about or know first or do you want me to listen to you talk about things and people I don’t know or care about first? I’m there, I’m participating, but I’m also keeping busy.

I like this one! :smiley:

In the past I have used my son (who is also uncomfortable at these family gatherings) as an excuse to excuse myself from the room. We can go outside and toss a football for a while.

When it is at our place I busy myself with keeping the kitchen orderly and cleaning-up after the cooks. As soon as a dish or pot is put into the sink, I get to give it a thorough washing, drying, and put away.

Shodan brings up a good point. I don’t think my in-laws are uncomfortable by the long silences or tepid small talk, or rehashing the same conversation over and over. It seems to run in their family. I think my brother-in-law gets a little uncomfortable like me, tho. Maybe he likes bourbon, too.

My FIL has had a number of health issues in recent years, and that’s ALL he talks about. And the talking is insistent and he gets pretty worked-up, even with people just nodding with agreement (being polite). I don’t want to be rude, but I feel like telling him to lighten-up on the sick-talk stuff, since none of us can help him, and he ignores advice my wife gives. That’s probably a 3rd-rail topic tho.

Thanks to all for the suggestions.