Highly Sensitive Refuge
an overwhelmed dog represents an HSP trying to survive the holidays

How to Survive the Holiday Season Hoopla When You’re an HSP

You probably won’t be able to completely avoid the holiday hoopla, but you can use it as an opportunity to reassess the meaning you want to make.

No one is immune to the hectic harrowing holiday season hoopla. You may think that you are the only one bewildered, lonely, or sad. You aren’t.

And if you are highly sensitive and have high ethical standards and a social conscience, this may be a particularly tough time. It is a crazy world right now. If you are like me, single and childfree, you might have mixed feelings while you watch the frenetic humans running hither and yon.

But whether you are single and childfree or not, here are my recommendations to survive this hectic season.

How to Survive the Holidays as an HSP

If this is a difficult and anxious time of the year for you, know that you are not alone. Even those people with the big, seemingly happy families that you see on Facebook or Instagram are probably actually not that perky. They most likely have one or two or ten obnoxious relatives who dominate the conversation, drink too much, bully the children, and bring an orange jello mold to every event.

Now is a great time to rethink your holiday traditions, habits, or expectations. What is it that you really want to do? Who do you really want to be with? What if this were your last holiday season? How would you spend it? Don’t wait until next year.

Design a spiritual practice that supports your particular connection to the Force. By Force, I mean your connection to a higher power or an inner guidance network, or to your religious affiliation. Maybe it includes a tree with ornaments. Maybe it includes the score to the musical Hamilton. Maybe it includes candles and wine. Perhaps you sit with the oak in your yard or you do tai chi by the lake. Whatever it is, make it yours. Let the Force be with you.

Appreciate the quiet and peace in your home. Notice your favorite parts of your surroundings.

Consider ordering takeout for your holiday meal. Do not feel guilty. 

Start a blog. It’s a great way to express yourself and to feel loved. If writing isn’t your thing, consider painting, composing music, or anything else creative.

Move your body in ways that work for you. This can include exercise. It is not a great idea to spend the holiday season curled up under blankets eating pie. I recently discovered Katy Bowman’s Nutritious Movement. You might also find it a good alternative to sitting through too many episodes of Longmire.

If you are single, get the book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. The author, Sasha Cagen, must have a rainforest mind. She is smart, sensitive, funny, and she dances the Argentine tango. Sasha created a movement for single folks who cherish their solitude, want to find a mate, but who would rather be alone than settle for just anyone.

 If you don’t have children of your own, find some young, deeply cared-for children. They might be family members or friends’ or neighbors’ kids. Watch them as they unselfconsciously sing and dance to the songs from Moana. It will give you hope for the future. This is what love looks like.

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HSP, Remember This

 And remember the following:

  1. You are not too sensitive if you are easily overwhelmed by the holiday muzak, the florescent lights, the crowds, the frenetic meaningless pace, and the smell of stale popcorn at the shopping mall.
  2.  You are not a failure as a human being if your siblings went to Stanford and are all doctors and have two and a half kids and you are still wondering what to do when you grow up because you took a detour into drug treatment and psychotherapy because your soft heart and gentle spirit needed to heal.
  3.  You are not lacking in empathy if you are frustrated and irritated, well, okay, enraged by society’s focus on the status of having more and more stuff, the bigger the better, while others are oblivious to the impact of said stuff.
  4.  You are not socially inept or paranoid if you have to abruptly leave a gathering of people who seem happy and charming and delightful but who make your stomach ache, because unbeknownst to your conscious mind, they are really miserable.
  5.  You are not an arrogant know-it-all if you choose to wrap the kids’ gifts in newspaper, or if you give your precocious nieces homemade light switch plates instead of Barbie dolls, or if you choose funding a homeless family over yet another plastic giraffe for your adorable nephew.
  6.  You are not a bad daughter/son if you have mixed feelings about attending the family event, and if you make a plan to leave early when your relatives start to berate you about your political or religious beliefs — or about why you didn’t go to Harvard when you had so much potential.
  7.  You are not being inauthentic if you consciously avoid certain topics with family members who you know will react with anger or misunderstanding to your attempt to explain, say, your logical reasons for changing your college major for the fifth time.
  8.  You are not too persnickety if you start your own holiday rituals and don’t allow your toddler to watch reality TV, use your iPad, or learn how to operate a cell phone.
  9.  You are not a failure as a parent if your holiday meal is a flop, if your kids throw their biggest tantrums just when the grandparents arrive, if you still haven’t gotten your hair cut or trained your dog not to beg for food.
  10.  You are not an oddball if you question the traditions, religion, or the obsession with television that organizes your family gatherings. Well, maybe you are an oddball in that regard, but there are times when oddballs are needed! This might be one of those times.
  11.  You are not too dramatic if you cry when your relatives tease you, well, okay, bully you, because you are following yet another career path, you have stopped straightening your hair, and you are still single.
  12.  You are not too intense if you can’t totally enjoy the holiday because people around the globe are suffering, the ice caps are melting, and you are distracted by your need to find and manifest your purpose on the planet.
  13.  You are not too idealistic if you believe that it is still possible for a transformation to occur where the people of the world embrace compassion over fear.
  14.  You are not alone if you dread the stresses of the holiday season and look forward to the end of said season. And, you are not wrong if you understand the following to be true: You are successfully sensitive, effervescently empathetic, indescribably intense, awesomely authentic, prudently persnickety, illustriously idealistic, and resplendently rainforest-minded. 

Chances are, you won’t be able to completely avoid the hectic, harrowing holiday season hoopla. But you can use it as an opportunity to reassess your life. Your choices. The meaning you want to make. The influence you want to have. Instead of being among the frenetic and the retraumatized, use this time to find your voice. To build your path to a better world.

With or without the orange jello mold.

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