Having been overwhelmed over the past few weeks with illness (mine and other people’s) stress (mine and other people’s!) and a growing feeling of ‘busy’ – (hence the silence on the blog front), I have been thinking a lot about Overwhelm and that all too familiar feeling for an HSP of ‘Too Much’! This isn’t strictly a post about my journey as an introvert HSP, but it is a post about a very specific time of of year that offers way too much ‘too much’!!.
Let’s face it, unless you completely shut yourself away and hibernate (and there are many times I wish I was a hibernating mammal!!) you will be exposed to ‘Too Much’ of pretty much everything in the run up to our festive season! Everywhere is busy, everywhere is bright and loud, people are ‘heightening the happy’ to entice you to buy stuff, to eat stuff, to participate at school christmas fairs, to shout, cheer and boo at the panto, and to make your house look ‘merry and bright’ – all of which just fills our bucket so quickly. ‘Tis also a season for ‘getting together’ with EVERYONE, so the pressure to socialise is enormous, added to which there are fewer places to retreat for peace and calm, so for introverts, and especially HSP introverts it can be particularly difficult.
But this is where it gets so confusing, right? Because most of the things I’ve talked about above are what give the magic to Christmas, it’s not all bad, so why do we still feel so drained? Here’s the thing. Overwhelm can as much come from too much of a good thing, as it can from the not so great stuff. Christmas time for me is a time full of mayhem, and too much social stuff, yes, but it is also full of absolute magic, and both the magic and the mayhem can play havoc with us HSPs if we are not careful.
So, without further ado – how do we ensure that we survive the mayhem and enjoy as much of the magic as possible, without tumbling into such severe over-stimulation that we crash and burn before the Big Day? For me, the key thing is to get through the season mindfully.
- Be very mindful of Boundaries. Be clear with yourself that if you go to everything you are invited to, and spend every day at the Christmas Market, you WILL get overwhelmed. Don’t be pressured into attending every christmas party, or every christmas drink, even when people call you a party-pooper!! Make it an active policy to say ‘No’ to some things. I try to limit the number of social engagements in a week to no more than 2 or 3, especially if they with more than just a few people. This may even include declining an invite to something ordinarily you would enjoy, you just need to acknowledge the cumulative effect. I also follow Elaine Aron’s advice to avoid any explanations about why I’m not going along, it is enough to politely decline, and to just say it doesn’t work for you. If you do go to lots of things, make it a conscious choice to do so, and make conscious plans for ‘down-time’ to empty your bucket
- Be mindful about who you spend time with and be proactive: if there are people you want/need to see, suggest dates, times and places so you can choose quieter venues and times. So have a morning coffee rather than lunch or dinner, and choose the little tea shop tucked away from the main street, rather than the big-chain coffee shop in midst of all the hustle and bustle.
- Be Mindful about the timing of when you go to places: Christmas markets, department stores, garden centres, Santa’s Grottos, high streets with Christmas lights, are all really magical places to visit at Christmas, and I love browsing round them and soaking up the beauty and sparkle, but they are also places I quickly become overstimulated. So I NEVER go at weekends and seek out the quiet times. I choose to visit them either early in the morning, or later in the afternoon when the crowds are fewer. I always consciously time-limit myself. I always ensure that I have identified a quiet corner/escape route so if it gets too much I don’t have to waste time working out where I need to go to recharge, I just follow my recovery plan!
- Be Mindful with the magic! Too much of a good thing can be just as overwhelming and there are numerous magical things going on over christmas to tempt you. But remember that we don’t have to ‘participate’ directly in everything to feel the magic – one of the wonderful things about the HSP brain is that your imagination and capacity for joy in even the smallest of beautiful things allows you to fully experience the magic and the joy in more subtle and less draining ways: by watching your favourite festive film, a walk in nature on a frosty morning, listening to carols or your favourite christmas songs, getting stuck into some christmas crafts, planning a fairytale christmas eve for little ones, snuggling in front of the fire with a hot chocolate and spending quality time with loved ones. Do these things mindfully, really letting your appreciation, gratitude and joy soak in, and you will experience the magic without the drain and overwhelm of being ‘out there’ with the crowds.
Try these tips over the coming week and see if they allow you to relish the magic and minimise the impact of the mayhem – let me know how you get on, and share any hints and tips of your own!
In the meantime – MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!