Unsure how to survive the holidays when you are highly sensitive? You’re not alone. The vast majority of people report feeling stressed around the holidays. There a gifts to be purchased, meals to be planned, guests to invite, and the ongoing fight for a few moments of peace and reflection amid the chaos. Those smiling faces on holiday cards are a promise of joy and an omen of stress. However, if you are a highly sensitive person the balance shifts towards ominous.
When you are highly sensitive the holidays can be an overwhelming and overly stressful time – a time that, no matter how early you start your annual countdown, you can’t seem to look forward to with any form of happiness.
If you’re like me, the simple logistics of extending your day a few more hours –during the darkest time of the year- so that you can battle traffic and bump against crowds of other stressed people in busy stores with glaring fluorescent lighting and bad music is enough to set you off the season. Maybe your triggers are more emotional and the thought of spending hours unearthing years worth of emotional baggage and trauma – and then stress eating your way through the dessert table – makes you anxious beyond measure.
Emotional, financial, sensory, or something else – your stress is valid. Struggling with the holidays does not make you a Scrooge, it makes you human. Here are some tips that those of us who consider ourselves to be more sensitive than average use to navigate the holiday season. If you find some of the common approaches to the season a bit more taxing, try these ways to lighten your load.
Set your limits: Chances are by now you actually know what works and what does not work for you. Maybe it is time to simply stop doing the things that do not work for you. Often when confronted with this option people will respond by saying there is some reason that they HAVE TO do what they are doing. I urge you to question this response each and every time you have it. By beginning to set limits and getting rid of the activities that tax you the most, you will be steps closer to enjoying your holidays –and that’s the point right?
Pare down your activities: Too much for anyone is stressful, too much for a sensitive person is an even bigger problem. It is important to pick and choose what you are doing so that you are taking good care of yourself. Yes, it can be hard to say no but in the end less is very likely to be more.
Plan Ahead: Telling your sister on the night of her big holiday party that you can’t make it because you are overstimulated is going to create more of a problem for you than looking at the month in advance and making sure that you have it laid out in a way that will work for you. Another version of planning ahead is doing your shopping early or doing it online to avoid last minute stress.
Adjust the traditions: Who said you needed to do it that way? Perhaps, the way that you have been celebrating is less than ideal for you. Maybe it is time for a change. Even the traditions themselves can be adjusted to suit your sensibilities. If large crowds are a challenge, maybe you can have a small gathering on a non-main day. If a tradition in your family is insensitive to certain members, maybe it is time to try and change that as well.
Take Care of Yourself: Our resiliency goes down when we get run down. It is particularly important to get adequate sleep, eat well, and do all the other things that we know we need to do to take care of ourselves so that we have the physical stamina we need to navigate the holiday season. The more that you can take these important actions, the more smoothly we can expect things to go.
Break the Mold: It needs to be said. If the holidays are a major challenge for you maybe it is time for you to buck the system. Perhaps, it is time to create an entirely new experience around the holidays. If you could imagine a way of celebrating the season that you looked forward to every year, what would it be? Why not try that?
The bottom line is that you are not going to stop being a sensitive person. It is how you are made. So, pushing forward without making adjustments to your holiday plans will keep ending you up in the same pile of problems. Making the changes that honor who you are could leave you looking forward to the holidays. And if you do end up sitting out of a few holiday gatherings, you can always curl up with the latest issue of Conscious Creative Magazine and a hot cocoa. You can’t beat that!
Being sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others is the gift and the plight of the empath. If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me that they struggle in their life because of how empathic they are, I could open a bank account. Many empaths choose to isolate themselves because they do not know what to do to take care of themselves when in community. While some temporary isolation can actually help solve your problems in the short term, isolation is not an adequate long term solution for how to survive being an empath.
If it is challenging for you to take care of yourself because you are an empath, here are some tips that will help make it a bit easier.
Strengthen yourself: The stronger that you are, the less likely you are to take on other people’s stuff. Absorption of lower energies –the stuff you feel from other people that makes you feel less than optimal— happens more frequently when you are operating at these lower frequencies yourself. The less you are taking care of yourself, or the more unresolved stuff you have, the more likely you are to be overcome by other people’s stuff. Build yourself up and you will see that you can more easily work with what comes your way.
Do you really need to take it on: Empaths are built to intimately experience the world and people around them. This design comes with certain tendencies to process the feelings of those around them. This is not an imperative. Instead, you can learn not to take on EVERYONE’s stuff and begin to protect yourself from what does not serve you. As you start to learn to put a layer of protection between you and some parts of the world, you will likely notice how often you feel drawn to energies that do not serve you. This is its own teaching.
Can you take it on differently: It is worth asking the question, “Is there another way to do this?” Perhaps ingesting and processing things for other people is less than optimal. Maybe you could choose to actively support them in their journey, rather than sympathetically absorb their experience. Maybe you could ask for more support in processing what you are coming in contact with. In some cases, I have recommended that empaths begin to officially work with people in a healing capacity to start to develop structure and skills around what they do naturally.
Clean and clear regularly: If you are going to operate in the world in an optimal way then you will need to keep yourself clean and clear. If you are an empath you should have a toolbox of cleaning and clearing techniques to support you in being healthy and happy. Every time you start to feel heavy, low, sluggish, cleaning and clearing should be your first step.
Take some personal time: Yes, I did start this article talking about how to survive being an empath without isolating yourself – with good reason. However, some well placed, intentional alone time can do wonders for you. It is helpful to define a specific amount of time for your personal time so that you learn to move in and out of your personal time, without isolating.
Learning how to survive being an empath is about taking care of yourself with consistency. Newer, better, or fancier tools to work with are less important than good ones that work for you and which you apply regularly. If you are feeling the push to isolate, start putting some of those good tools into practice. Click here to sign up for Conscious Creative Magazine, our collaborative art piece that brings you inspiration, guidance, and resources – right to your inbox – every month.