10 Things HSPs Dread About the Holidays

The holidays may be “merry and bright” -- which is also what makes them overstimulating for HSPs.

The holidays may be “merry and bright” — which is also what makes them overstimulating for HSPs.

The scent of pine from nearby Christmas trees wafts through the air as you watch snow gently fall around you. It’s dark outside, the moonlight your only guide, and all you hear is the sound of the snow softly landing on the pine branches. (No one else would hear this, but as a highly sensitive person (HSP), your Spidey senses do.) Everything is perfect… 

…until you walk inside your friend’s Christmas party. Immediately, it’s sensory overload: what was going to be a “small gathering of friends” is a full-on party packed with people, the multicolored lights on the Christmas tree produce a strobe light effect, and your friend’s baby cries and drowns out the holiday music. (Ironically, Silent Night is playing and how you wish that were the case.) 

You, too, would like to cry. But it’s Christmas, so you tell yourself you’ll just grin and bear it (and will escape to the comfort of your HSP sanctuary later to regroup and have all the alone time — and peace and quiet — you desire).

Whether it’s a holiday party or simply going to an overcrowded mall to compete with fellow shoppers for the last carton of eggnog, there are several things we HSPs dread about the holidays. Here are a handful of them. 

10 Things HSPs Dread About the Holidays

1. All the overstimulation everywhere, from bright lights to loud voices

The holidays are filled with so much joy… but also noise and extra stimuli everywhere we look. People are not just talking to each other, but shouting across store aisles, masking the Christmas music that’s on a constant loop. Not to mention traffic. If you live in a big city like I do (Los Angeles), traffic is a constant, but even road rage seems a lot worse when everyone’s in a rush to get to holiday sales or the latest festive get-together.

And although holiday lights are beautiful — who doesn’t like seeing Rudolph and the other reindeer “flying” across someone’s house in December? — they’re also triggering for HSPs due to our light sensitivity

2. An overabundance of small talk takes its toll on your energy

The plus and minus of holiday get-togethers is seeing people we haven’t seen in several months… which also means a lot of small talk. But we highly sensitive souls would rather have more in-depth conversations. Yes, pointing out how it’s suddenly snowing has its time and place, but what about your life? What’s going on? How’s that book you’ve been working on? What are your goals for the New Year?

3. You can only take so much “constructive” criticism from your family

Going hand in hand with small talk is the endless barrage of questions from inquisitive relatives. Although they mean well, all their probing feels like “constructive” criticism about your life: Why aren’t you married? Why are you throwing money away renting? Why don’t you stop freelancing and get a “regular” job? 

4. You overthink more than usual

Did you respond properly (i.e., nicely) to your aunt’s countless questions about why you’re still single? Did you get the “right” Christmas gift for your boss? Did you leave your holiday work party too soon (and so now everyone thinks you’re rude)? HSPs already overthink all the time, but during the holiday season, it’s increased tenfold.

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5. Crowded stores — and get-togethers — put you on edge

Shopping is usually not in the “Top 10 Activities HSPs Love Most,” but when it’s Christmas season? The hordes of shoppers, lines of kids waiting to sit on Santa’s lap at the local mall, and voices coming at us from all directions is overwhelming to say the least. All we want is to grab a carton or two of eggnog and suddenly we’re stuck in line behind a hundred ornery shoppers, making us question how much we really need that eggnog… but we promised the party host we’d bring some. And then, once we master the crowds at the stores, we have to master the crowds at holiday get-togethers (and secretly hope that many people will no-show so the events will be less overstimulating).

6. Holiday movies make you cry

Is it just me, or do holiday movies make you cry, too? As an HSP, perhaps you escape the big holiday party and go watch an animated movie with your friends’ kids in the other room. It’ll be more light-hearted than all the noise in the party room, right? Although you find yourself rooting for Rudolph in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, between the way he’s bullied and the song lyrics — All of the other reindeer / Used to laugh and call him names / They never let poor Rudolph / Join in any reindeer games — you find yourself tearing up (even more so than the kids around you). 

7. You feel “hangry (hungry + angry) more often

You know there will be a lot of food at your aunt’s holiday brunch, so you decide not to eat until you arrive. Big mistake. With all the overstimulation, you find yourself getting more and more agitated and hangry (hungry + angry) and feel eating will help… but then learn the ham still needs another hour in the oven. You remind yourself you’ll have a snack before the next holiday party you go to. But, once again, you’re really looking forward to the party food, like your Uncle Lenny’s famous potato pancakes (latkes), so you decide not to eat in advance, causing you to get hangry once again… 

8. You’re emotionally exhausted from absorbing everyone’s emotions

Not only does the hectic holiday season take its toll on you emotionally, but absorbing everyone else’s emotions and feelings does, too. Whether your cousin and his fiancée just broke up and you feel his sadness as though it’s your own or when your friend’s baby cries, you feel her pain, you find yourself taking it all on. You get more mentally and emotionally flooded than usual, perhaps because of the sheer magnitude of people — it’s not just absorbing one person’s emotions, but many people’s all at once. You feel you’re on some sort of game show seeing how much you can take…

9. You get more “HSP hangovers” than usual

As a sensitive person, you have trouble saying no to events — after all, Christmas is only once a year, so what’s one more party, right? But by putting your people-pleasing tendencies first — Aunt Shelly’s really looking forward to seeing you (even though you’re tired and would like to sit this event out) — and don’t enact boundaries, you’re bound to get an “HSP hangover”… and then another one… and another one. All the socializing catches up with you and you can’t seem to get out of bed the morning after yet another holiday get-together. But you do — and soon convince yourself that you’ll go to “just one more party.” And the cycle repeats itself, which leads to…

10. You’re really sleep-deprived

With all the holiday tasks and gatherings and overstimulation, it’s hard to get enough sleep, which is something we HSPs need more than others. Maybe it’s because we’re running from one event to the next. Or maybe it’s due to anticipation and the anxiety and excitement that keeps us up at night. Whatever the case may be, as festive as the holidays are, we can’t wait to catch up on sleep and hibernate a while once they’re over… at least until we do it all again next year. 

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