April Snow, MA, MFTI

Hi, I’m April, a psychotherapist who wants to help you heal your past wounds, embrace your true self and begin to thrive again.

Holiday Survival Plan for the Highly Sensitive Person

Holiday Survival Plan for the Highly Sensitive Person

Do you often dread going home for the holidays or visiting with friends and family because it leaves you feeling exhausted and depleted? While the busyness and high expectations of the holiday season have the potential to be stressful for everyone, Introverts and Highly Sensitive People are especially vulnerable to becoming overwhelmed during this time of year. It's difficult attending numerous social engagements, being inundated with noise at shopping malls and having your daily routine disrupted. Your instinct may be to hibernate and withdraw from holiday activities to preserve your energy. Before you miss out on the opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones (which most HSPs really enjoy), try some of the tips from my Holiday Survival Plan. A few small adjustments to your holiday routine can help you stay energized while enjoying this wonderful time of year. 

Tip #1: Add a Buffer Day to Your Calendar

Schedule at least one day off after the holidays to recharge before heading back to your normal routine. This may require taking a shorter trip or taking an extra day off work, but will allow you to feel rested and prepared to re-engage with your responsibilities. 

Tip #2: Plan Ahead

If traveling to visit friends and family, inquire about scheduled activities ahead of time so you know what to expect and can reduce anxiety of the unknown. A Highly Sensitive Person will often have difficulty with surprises or unexpected changes in routine. Planning ahead also gives you an opportunity to set limits on commitments and communicate your needs for solo activities or downtime. 

Tip #3: Shop Online

If you become overwhelmed by long lines, hectic parking lots and noisy stores, give yourself permission to shop online. This can provide an opportunity to quietly reflect on your gift selection and compare options without pressure or distraction. 

Tip #4: Make a Wish List

Gift giving can often be an emotional process for HSPs as we tend to put a considerable amount of effort into gift selection. Unfortunately, this can lead to disappointment if that effort is not reciprocated. Remember that non-HSPs do not possess the Highly Sensitive Superpower of perception and may need help deciding on the best gift for you. Try making a wish list this year to minimize disappointment and let others know what you want. 

Tip #5: Make Sleep a Priority

Whether you are traveling to a different time zone or socializing more than normal, adequate sleep is essential this time of year. Increased activity, changes in routine and stimulation means more for the Introvert or HSP to process which can lead to fatigue. Listen to your body and rest as much as you need to. 

Tip #6: Maintain Routines

Highly Sensitive People often feel unsettled or anxious when daily routines are disrupted, so it is important to maintain your routine as much as possible while traveling or engaging in holiday activities. For instance, if you take a walk everyday or meditate before bed, be sure to continue those practices to stay grounded. 

Tip #7: Monitor Caffeine and Sugar Intake

HSPs are typically sensitive to the effects of stimulants such as caffeine and sugar, which can disrupt sleep and impact mood. Monitoring caffeine and sugar consumption can be extremely helpful in maintaining balance during the holidays. 

Tip #8: Take Breath Breaks

During large gatherings or overstimulating activities, occasionally step away from the crowd to focus on your breath. All it takes is three slow, deep breaths to recenter and recharge. HSPs often feel anxious in large crowds or noisy environments so finding a quiet area (such as a bathroom) can help calm the nervous system. 

Tip #9: Unplug to Unwind

Checking our phones or browsing social media can feel like an escape during social situations, but it actually adds to our stimulation level as HSPs take in a lot through the senses. If you find yourself constantly looking at your phone during a party, you may be in desperate need of some quiet time (preferably with eyes closed). 

Tip #10: Communicate Your Needs for Downtime

Let your friends and family know that you need a little quiet time each day, especially before a big dinner party or day of shopping. By communicating your needs, you can advocate for yourself and reduce any feelings of concern or frustration from others. 

Tip #11: Choose Quality over Quantity

When spending time with loved ones who we don’t see often throughout the year, it’s natural to want to spend as much time as possible together. However, quantity does not always lead to quality, especially for HSPs and Introverts. If you feel yourself feeling depleted, take time to recharge so you can better enjoy the time you do spend with friends and family. 

Tip #12: Manage Expectations

Highly Sensitive People often have a need for meaningful social connections and a desire for the holidays to feel magical. When reality does not meet our expectations, we can suffer greatly from disappointment. If needed, create your own magical moments this season such as treating yourself to a special gift or planning a fancy dinner with a friend. 

The holiday season often leaves Introverts and Highly Sensitive People feeling depleted and overwhelmed. With a few simple adjustments to manage stimulation and improve self-care, you can enjoy your favorite holiday festivities with more energy and less anxiety. 

What self-care strategies help you maintain balance during the holiday season? 

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