I’m Emma, and I’m a committed introvert. I 🧡 time on my own and I can easily get lost in a solo world.  And much as I love being with people (and I really do – hence my job), I can find big, busy gatherings tiring, if not overwhelming and run out of steam if I’m with too many people for too long.

And I know I’m not the only one.  Most of my clients are introverts too and some can find the demands of Christmas in particular a tricky to navigate.

Perhaps it’s the office do, or staying at a family member’s house for a few days where you won’t get time to yourself or have your “safe space”.  It might even be in your own home with your own family – with kids and partners all home, and so so noisy!

So here’s a few tips my clients and I have crafted for specific situations – some just might work for you…

Remember, you have power

You always have the option to say no, and choose what you’re happy (or not) to do.  I get that’s not always easy and it can mean missing out on the positive of being with others.  But it is worth remembering that there’s boundaries which can be set here and you do have a choice.

Don’t be afraid to suggest different options that might work for you. So instead of the big drunken office do, how about a meal out just with your team (they might choose to do both but you don’t have to), or an activity-based night perhaps like bowling or an escape room.   Usually, the key is trying to find smaller groups with people you know better – and with less emphasis on mingling.

And if having your own space feels key, how about splashing out for a night or two at a Premier Inn rather than staying over with family?  If it’s important to you, then it’s worth it (and again, it’s ok to set a boundary around this even if it’s not the popular choice).

Take time to remember the positives

Take some time to get clear about why you’re choosing to do this.  It might be that you think it’ll help make stronger connections with colleagues, will boost your career, might make a new friendship, or will make your partner happy to spend a Christmas with their family.

Whatever.  There will be reasons why you’re willing to tackle something tricky, and it’s worth taking the time to highlight what they are (and make sure these reasons aren’t just about other people.  Get super clear on the benefits to you)

Have an exit route and “time out” space

Plan how you’re going to leave and remind yourself you can do this at any time.  Driving yourself can be super useful, as well as a dog/cat/plant/kids/commitment for tomorrow that you have to get home for.  There’s no need to lie (that just adds to the stress), make a plan that gives you an actual reason to leave and rehearse telling people.

Introversion means we can find time with people, especially a lot of people or new people exhausting.  So imagine your battery display like that on a phone and find ways to keep charging it (introverts recharge with time on our own; extroverts recharge with others).  A trip to the loo, a walk for some fresh air, 1:2:1 time with a fellow introvert or close friend where you can connect (make a phone call for a boost) or regular regulating exercises for your nervous system (see later) all work well.  If you don’t have your own room and need some space, welcome the joys of technology – headphones and devices are a fantastic ally.

Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself for an early night or a walk – just because everyone else doesn’t do it, doesn’t mean you can’t.  And personally, I’d say don’t be afraid to say why.  Explain that you can get tired easily with lots of people around, that you just need snippets of alone time here and there so you can keep with the fun, even explain what an introvert is.  It’s amazing how amenable people are when they understand.

Be your calm, capable self (they’re in there somewhere!)

OK, this is going to be hard work (remember last week’s tolerable steps).  And your nervous system is going to be in overdrive.

So have some techniques ready to bring yourself back to calm.  Choose ones you can do without anyone noticing (like an orientation, a body scan, some breathing), and some that you can do when grabbing recharge time away (like a at a photo on your phone of one of your favourite places, or a video of a cute dog).  Use plenty of these before and after too, so you’re not as stressed going in and can settle yourself afterwards.  It’s all part of teaching your nervous system this isn’t so bad and that next time it’ll be a little easier.

And finally, embody that calm, competent self, even if you don’t always feel like them (fake it until you make it vibe).  Remember times when you’ve felt completely at ease, and on top of your game – your competent, confident self.  Feel that memory in your body, and adopt the same body language.  Your body’s state informs your nervous system’s state which informs your brain’s state.  So if your body adopts the posture of a calm, confident person, your nervous system moves into a non-alert state, and your brain thinks “I’ve got this; I can do this”.

Oh, and added bonus, other people them pick up on this less “prickly” energy and so feel calmer themselves, making interaction that bit easier.  It’s a win-win!

A little plug for my Shift It Coaching Package

I get that this stuff isn’t easy.  I know that you can have the best intentions but then just can’t put them into action.

Wow, I battled hard with this for a long time myself and I’m so passionate about sharing the coaching tools that make a tangible, achievable difference.  This isn’t just about wiling yourself to change, and either failing or perhaps managing once or twice before reverting back to form.  This is about transformation in a safe, sustainable way.

Here’s some words from Jackie, who worked with me with my Shift It Coaching package, and learned to embrace the gifts of being an introvert, rather than seeing it as a shortcoming:

“Coaching with Emma has made a big difference to my confidence – I’ve really valued her intelligent observations and coaching expertise. I no longer automatically think that I can’t do something or that there is something wrong with me. It’s helped me to think about things for the first time or in a different way, and it’s opened the door to many new possibilities”

Jackie, Durham