Reminder.

It’s that dreaded time of year again. Christmas parties. We’re supposed to love them, right?  The more parties on the iPhone calendar the better, right?  Right?

Not true for everyone.  In fact, according to the MBTI percentage chart, the research shows that approximately 50% of the test subjects are actually introverts.  I’m well aware that many people just get tired of the perceived “extrovert bashing”, but many introverts struggle with what extroverts consider normal human interaction in the workplace and socially.

Every year around this time, I challenge my patients to push a bit outside their comfort zone.  Not much; just a bit.  Since my patients are “at-risk” for triggers to use drugs or alcohol, according to their addictions, the challenge is knowing where the comfort zone line is and to have a backup plan that will help keep them safe and abstinent from use.

I’ve perused the research and tried a few of these suggestions out myself.  But I’m hoping that you might have some more.

1.  Show up late.  Yes, I said it.  Don’t be the first one there.  In fact, try to be among the last to show up.  Not always possible if there’s a meal going on with the gathering, like Thanksgiving, but you want to be late because parking is often managed on the “last in, first out” model.  This means that, if you’re the first one to show up, you’ll be boxed in by everyone else’s vehicles.  This is really bad if they’re consuming alcohol.

2.  Help out.  Don’t just be a guest.  Make yourself useful.  Your host or hostess might decide not to take you up on your offers from assistance, so, as a backup plan, put yourself in a position to pull up your sleeves in a slick move to remove pressure from making conversation with a bunch of people you may not already know.  And, if they do talk to you, it may be just to ask where something is.  You might know or you can ask the host or hostess.

3.  I know there’s a chance that it’s cold and even snowing (because it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere), but consider, even if you don’t smoke cigarettes, taking occasional “smoke breaks”.  Yes, without the cigarettes.  People think you need to smoke to take a 5-10 minute break every once in a while.  You don’t.  I give you permission to take a break.  Please consider giving yourself the same permission.  I’ve seen this work with adolescents rather well.  There is no stigma.  Kids just “get it”.  And, at their ages, they accept that their friends are weird.  The world might be a better place if adults accepted that, too.

4.  There’s always the “bathroom trick”.  In case going outside for a walk in the neighborhood is not an option.  Make sure you wash your hands because, well, people may get all wonky if they don’t hear the sink running in there.

5.  Finally, give yourself an expectation.  If a gathering is 3 hours (again, if there isn’t a formal meal involved), give yourself 60 minutes.  See how you’re doing.  I’ve done this before with my bride.  She’s a bit more social than I am and our agreement is 60 minutes.  If we’re in the same room at the 60 minute mark, she’ll get my attention.  If not, there’s an email (we don’t text) to my phone.  It’s just a “check-in”.  “Are you ready to leave?”  I find that I’m able to stretch myself a bit after letting her know I’m good – and a request to check in at another 30 or 60 minutes.

Having the support of friends and loved ones means a lot.  My wish for you this holiday season (whatever your tradition) is that you connect in meaningful and life-affirming ways.

What are your hints for surviving the winter party madness?

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