5 Holiday Survival Strategies for the Highly-Sensitive Person

The #1 gift you can give your loved ones? A calmer, saner YOU

by Maria Kubitz

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The holidays. Oh joy. (And yes, that was sarcasm you detected.)

My children eagerly anticipate the months-long revelry that begins with the lead-up to Halloween and lasts all the way through the drunken hangover that is New Year’s. (And no…my children do NOT get drunken hangovers, thankyouverymuch).

I, on the other hand, dread all of it.

Why? Let me take you on a brief tour of my awesome – but often tortured – mind.

In general, I’m busy all year round. There’s ALWAYS things to do, places to be, other people’s needs to attend to. It’s already a lot to keep track of, a lot to balance, and it takes a lot out of me.

All of this means: I’m usually on the verge of feeling overwhelmed (or AM feeling overwhelmed) most of the time.

Throw in some holiday “revelry” on top of all that, and you have, well… a critical mass of overwhelm speeding down the road to total burnout.

It’s all the extra details to keep  track of. All those extra obligations…

  • Hosting Thanksgiving dinners (or traveling to who-knows-where if you’re not).
  • Buying the “perfect gift” for your ever-growing Christmas…or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Festivus, or [insert your preferred gift-giving winter holiday here]… list.
  • Donations and volunteering for your kid’s school holiday parties. Warm coat and food drives, angel tree donations, or even serving holiday dinners at your local homeless shelter (I’m a big proponent of all of these by the way).
  • Your office holiday party (yippie!!), your significant other’s office holiday party (double yippee!!!), and the invitations to even more wonderful holiday parties thrown by family and friends. (Can you tell I don’t like holiday parties?)
  • Sending cards. Baking everyone’s favorite holiday cookies. (“Wait, you want me to make Aunt Concetta’s cucidati cookies too?”) Hustle and bustle. No parking spaces for miles. Shopping sprees at (gasp!) the mall. Feeling hot and claustrophobic in every store. Continuous assault on the ears from endless chatter, holiday jingles and ads blaring in the background.

All of this makes me want to scream, run and hide in a darkened room under my covers. Literally.

The Grinch said it perfectly: “There’s one thing I hate. All the noise, noise, noise, noise.”

Maybe I’m a Grinch? Others would label me “Over-Sensitive” or “Highly-Sensitive”. I’d prefer “Wonderfully-Sensitive” or “Awesomely-Sensitive” or “Keenly-aware-of-what-most-everyone-else-glosses-over-but-is-actually-REALLY-important-Sensitive”.

I know a lot of you reading this are just as wonderfully, awesomely, perfectly sensitive as me.

But you don’t have to hide in a darkened room until January. You just need to take care of #1. (That’s you, by the way.)

Here are the 5 most important strategies I use to stay calm, collected, and grounded amid the flurry of holiday craziness (and any time, really).

1. Remove the word “should” from your vocabulary.

Take some time to separate the “must do” list from the “should do” list. And NO… not everything has to be on the “must do” list just because you’ve done it in the past and people expect it of you. Put on your big girl pants and do the challenging sanity-saving work of creating a list containing only things that – if you do them – will benefit YOU, your health and wellness, and your emotional stability.

In the long run, your family and friends will thank you for it when you don’t morph into the Wicked Witch of the West after crashing headlong into burnout.

2. Flex those vocal chords of yours and “just say no”!

This is really a continuation of number 1. Once you differentiate the “must do’s” from the “should (they-will-guilt-trip-me-if-I-don’t) do’s”, politely – but firmly – decline the ones that will only serve their benefit at the high cost of you feeling emotionally exhausted and secretly resentful. A simple, “I’d love to, but I don’t have the bandwidth to help you right now” will suffice.

And don’t back down if they protest. Stand your ground and respect your personal boundaries. Because if you don’t… who will?

3. Schedule regular periods of downtime into your days.

Block off your calendar to include a few chunks of time dedicated to your health and wellness. Use it to meditate, take a leisurely walk around the block, drink a cup of hot tea… whatever will slow you down, ground you and take your focus off the million things swirling in your head amid the constant din of the holiday rush.

Give your mind a break for a few minutes by momentarily returning to calm and quiet. It will instantly begin to reduce your feelings of exhaustion.

4. Breathe.

I know. This sounds like a no-brainer. But many of us tend to unknowingly hold our breath when we start to feel anxious. When you feel the tension rising, simply bring your focus back to your breath. Take a few moments – wherever you happen to be – and adjust your breath to slower, longer ones. Place your hands on your chest and belly to really feel the breath moving through you. Instant “reset” button.

5. Put your own needs at the top of your list.

As I stated earlier, you’re probably not the nicest person to be around when you’re depleted and burnt out. While you can’t completely abandon tending to others who depend on you, you CAN put yourself on the receiving end of the care you’re so brilliant at dishing out for others. And I don’t just mean scheduling yourself a massage or a girls’ night out (but by all means, do those!) — I mean doing something really meaningful for yourself.

Is there something you’ve been “meaning to do” but never get around to? Are there things in your life you’ve been wanting to change, but feel it’s too daunting? Stop pussy-footing around those areas of longing in your life and DO it. Invest in yourself. Be a living, breathing role model of self-care.

(Is the very thought of this giving you heart palpitations?? No worries. We have the best tool ever for untangling the biggest, hairiest knots…one strand at a time.)

And don’t get me wrong. It’s more than likely that you’re too busy during the holidays to do anything incredibly meaningful for yourself. But you can schedule it. Sign up for it. Make a real, tangible commitment to start something after the craziness of the holidays die down.

So what are you waiting for? Implement these 5 survival strategies right now, and give yourself a fighting chance at getting through the holiday season in one piece.

You might even LIKE it. Grinch-face. 😉  

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Maria Kubitz
With over twenty years in a successful marketing communications career at companies ranging from huge corporations like Hewlett-Packard to small startup environments with less than ten people, Maria has seen first-hand what works and what doesn't. In 2012, Maria launched a grief support website where her honest, heartfelt writing has helped ...read more

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