So you are spending Thanksgiving with friends and family. Are you ready dear introvert?
Are you ready to be ON for long periods of time? Are you prepared to have dinner ready at exactly 2:00PM so the minute-minders don’t get hangry and critical? Are you ready to receive countless pointers on how you should cook/clean/raise your children? Can you handle chaos for hours, possibly days? Can you go without solitude?
Perhaps you ARE ready to express caring and interest in the lives of those you love. Perhaps you are excited about sharing engaging and meaningful conversations around the kitchen table or you are eager to provide pleasing food and beautiful environments for your dear ones. Maybe you love to play board games and your crowd is up for them too.
I will be hosting this year and I feel both trepidation and joy. I’m anxious about the meal preparation and timing but excited about seeing my family and friends (and playing board games;).
What to avoid to preserve your conscious energy/sanity
For an introvert, dealing with groups of people takes lots of conscious energy, which you can think of as similar to willpower. Both conscious energy and willpower are finite. When we run low on conscious energy we resort to our least developed skills or functions, our subconcious shadow sides, becoming the exact opposite of our usual non-judgmental, flexible, empathetic, understanding selves.
Things that drain conscious energy for an introverted feeling type are:
- Multiple tasks, demands and roles to play at one time
- Conflict and negativity
- Rigid structure and time pressure
- No alone time
- Controlling and confrontational people
- Conformity to unacceptable values
Basically, anything that generates a feeling of resentment — where you trade a bit of your self to maintain a relationship or where others don’t live up to your expectations — causes conscious energy depletion. Tolerating others is a huge energy drain. If you’re tolerating, you’re not enjoying or being filled up. You’re subconsciously gritting your teeth until you get through it, sort of like being on a diet and eating celery and cottage cheese for a week. It takes willpower and it’s not comfortable.
Spending time with large groups of people is likely to bring about such a feeling for introverts, which is why we are often found in small groups with people we know and like very well.
Who me, stress?
I get nervous before and during big events when I am the host. Mostly, because to some degree, they involve the above energy drains. Thanksgiving has the potential to bring up a whole flock of entertaining stressors. Here are some examples of stressors I’ve experienced while entertaining in the past:
- Someone at the table insists on making jokes or poking fun at the expense of someone else at the table. This goes against my be kind, see the good in people, build people up instead of tear them down, value. It’s hard for me to tolerate.
- Someone standing over my shoulder questioning every step of my cooking process. Telling me how they do it or how I could do it better. This incites my incompetence fear and makes me see the person as controlling.
- Pulling all the different dishes together at the same time so everything stays hot. My mom always said that was the hardest part of cooking and I agree. The task-minding and timing blow my ‘big picture’ brain.
What happens when you provoke the sensitive introvert
The results of these stresses depleting my conscious energy are 1. Me exaggerating my strongest traits (inner feeling) and becoming hyper-sensitive and 2. Me dipping into my subconscious and less developed traits and becoming critical and judgmental. I become over-logical. I notice and point out others’ incompetence, essentially projecting my own fear of incompetency. I become especially critical of others who are critical. Yep, insanity. Later, just for added measure, I turn on myself and lay on the guilt and inner-criticism for being such a judgy wench.
When I am in this over-stimulated/under-energized state, I stop being the caring and thoughtful person I am when relaxed in a cooperative and positive environment. If the cycle lasts long enough I can lose confidence in my ability to handle things and move to feelings of despair.
Less despair, more wine
I can’t allow that to happen, so this is what I do and this is what I suggest anyone does if they find themselves wanting to put their head in the oven with the turkey:
- Take a breath and realize the critiquing, ultra logical types hawking around your kitchen looking for things you did wrong, often truly believe they are helping you. Give them a job to do so they stay busy, feel useful and stay out of your hair.
- Recharge with artistic expression. Find a new recipe or a lovely way to set the table. Put your mind in creative mode and let the possibilities entertain your eyes and surprise your guests. A favorite part of planning Thanksgiving this year was going through all of my recipes and picking out ones I thought my guests would love. I found a pumpkin spice granola recipe I can’t wait to try out for breakfast the day of Thanksgiving.
- Surround yourself with people who have similar work styles, who validate and recognize your efforts. Validation is so comforting and supportive. Support is so much better than criticism. I’m lucky because my sister and brother-in-law are laid back and helpful guests. My man will help get things done too. I picture a wonderful meal made in a flexible environment with lively conversation to boot. I’m really looking forward to it.
- Be alone. Take time to reflect on values and generate understanding. Get away from negative, critical people. I always have my bedroom to retreat to if necessary. At the very least, I have time to myself at night when everyone is in bed.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get things done. The more rushed you are the more stressed you are. I have all of Wednesday earmarked for baking and Thanksgiving prep. I finished this post on Tuesday so I could have plenty of space in my schedule to enjoy the process.
- Temper your idealism. The dinner may not be perfect but there will be moments of wonderful.
- Have a glass of wine. I’m going to. I don’t recommend using alcohol as a crutch but a drink can take the edge off and help you relax.
- Express gratitude for the people and food at your table. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, right? Being thankful. Being thankful puts the focus on the good stuff and lets you get back to the positive, less critical you.
Are you at all anxious about the holidays and time spent with groups? How do you make it enjoyable?