How to Survive (and enjoy!) the Holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person

How to survive - and enjoy! - the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person

The holiday season can be a busy time of year for many of us. Between the activities, shopping, gatherings, cooking, decorating, hosting, visiting, travelling, etc. it can be a lot. This is especially true if you’re navigating the holidays a Highly Sensitive Person. Today I’m sharing some great ways to not only survive but even enjoy the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person.

These tips are great for anyone looking to simplify and find a slower pace during the holidays. Use these tips to say goodbye to the holiday hustle. If you want to create a holiday season filled with more meaning, connection, intention and calm – this post is for you!

How to survive - and enjoy! - the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person
Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

What is a Highly Sensitive Person?

First, let’s review what it means to be a Highly Sensitive Person. A Highly Sensitive Person is “someone who experiences acute physical, mental or emotional responses to stimuli” (source).

This includes both external stimuli, like sights, sounds, smells, etc. As well as internal stimuli like your own thoughts, emotions, reactions, etc. Some Highly Sensitive People are even more sensitive to the emotions of the people around them.

Basically, Highly Sensitive People are more sensitive to the world around and within them than other people. Being a Highly Sensitive Person is an innate trait you are born with. It’s not a disorder or something that needs to be fixed. It’s simply the way your body and mind process and take in the world around you.

Being a Highly Sensitive Person is not a flaw

There are many advantages and benefits of being a Highly Sensitive Person. For example, Highly Sensitive People tend to be creative, detail oriented, and show greater empathy for those around them.

But there are disadvantages as well. Because Highly Sensitive People experience the world around them more intensely than other people, they can become easily overwhelmed, overstimulated, burnt out and stressed.

But remember, being a Highly Sensitive Person doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. Or that it’s a personality flaw you need to fix. It’s simply the way you are. It’s an innate trait you were born with.

Survive and thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person

As a Highly Sensitive Person, it’s extremely important to, first of all, recognize and understand more about your sensitive nature. The more you understand your sensitivity, the more you can work with this aspect of your personality rather than against it.

And secondly, it’s important to find ways to manage your sensitivity to minimize the disadvantages it causes and create a healthy, happy life for yourself.

Navigating the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person

For many of us, we intend to have a holiday season full of magic, connection and special moments. But in reality, the holidays are often busy, chaotic, and stressful. And our intentions to create a special holiday season can often lead us to take on too much. Before we know it, we’re burnt out, stressed, overwhelmed and downright exhausted!

This is especially true if you’re navigating the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person. The holidays are full of stimuli that easily overwhelm a Highly Sensitive Person. Things like busy shopping malls, loud and busy parties, frequent gatherings with family and friends, etc.

None of these things are necessarily bad. And many Highly Sensitive People enjoy holiday activities. The problem for many Highly Sensitive People is there are so many holiday activities in a short amount of time. Without enough time to rest and recharge in between them.

Because Highly Sensitive People are more sensitive to the sensory input surrounding them, life in the world can be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting.

Even the fun stuff!

Simplifying to make life easier for Highly Sensitive People

I’ve talked before about how simplifying and minimalism can benefit Highly Sensitive People. The more we are able to slow down and remove the excess, the distractions and the clutter from our homes and our lives, the easier life becomes for Highly Sensitive People.

Highly Sensitive People need plenty of time, space and peace to recharge and recover after being out in the world.

Simplifying and minimalism allow Highly Sensitive People the opportunity to create a home to truly rest, relax and recharge in. Without being bombarded by more visual clutter, sensory info and distractions.

Simplifying is one way to cope as a Highly Sensitive Person. Today I’m sharing 10 more ways to help you survive – and even enjoy – the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person!

How to survive – and enjoy! – the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person

How to survive - and enjoy! - the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person
Photo by Jeremy Gallman on Unsplash

1. Create your own “Holiday Mission Statement”

First, decide what matters most to you during the holidays. Figure out what your priorities are. You can even write your mission statement down to give you something tangible to refer to. Or simply get clear for yourself what your holiday priorities are.

Then, use this vision or mission statement to guide your decisions during the holidays.

Come back to your mission statement whenever you’re making holiday plans. Use it as a guide or a compass to ensure you only agree to the things that align with your priorities for the holidays.

Come back to it often, especially when you’re feeling pressured to do more or take on more during the holidays. A clear mission statement can help you be intentional about what you agree to. And what you decide to decline or opt out of.

2. Know your limits & set boundaries

And speaking of deciding what you’ll agree to and what you’ll opt out of – knowing your own limits is important. Especially during the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person.

Be honest with yourself about what you can handle and enjoy, and what will be too much for you.

For example, you may have invitations for events several nights in a row. But you know attending all of the events will leave you exhausted, overwhelmed and unhappy. Being aware of your limits as a Highly Sensitive Person allows you to make choices and politely decline some events. All to look after your own well-being.

Knowing your limits as a Highly Sensitive Person and setting boundaries allows you to protect your energy and well-being. All to help you avoid ending up overwhelmed, stressed and burnt out during the holidays.

3. Schedule quiet time

Which brings us to the next tip to survive and enjoy the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person – scheduling in quiet time.

Highly Sensitive People need plenty of time to rest, recharge, recover and reset after taking in all the sensory information that surrounds them during the day. Quiet time to rest is especially important for Highly Sensitive People during the busy holiday season.

If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, you’ll likely need more quiet time than many other people around you. That’s ok! Again, it comes back to knowing your limits and knowing what you need for your own well-being. Then honouring those limits and needs.

The best way to ensure you give yourself quiet time to rest and recharge is literally scheduling it in. Add these rest and quiet times into your schedule and protect that time for yourself.

4. Plan to do less & adjust your expectations of yourself

The holiday season has a way of quickly filling up with activities, parties, events, dinners, decorating, cooking, hosting, shopping, etc. Even when you know you don’t enjoy a busy and hectic holiday season, the busyness can sometimes sneak up on you.

When you go into the holiday season already planning to do less, it can help you be more intentional when deciding what to do and what to skip.

When you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, intentionally choosing to do less can often mean you are able to enjoy the things you do decide to do more. Simply because you are not too overwhelmed, stressed or exhausted to enjoy them.

Another big part of planning to do less is adjusting your own expectations of yourself. No one can do it all. Especially true if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person. But adjusting your own expectations for yourself can often be hard.

But do you really want to power through the holidays, trying to do it all and ending up exhausted, overwhelmed, burnt out, stressed and completely unhappy?

Not only will you not be at your best for the people you love most, but you won’t enjoy any of it. And only end up torturing yourself in the process. All for the sake of trying to reach your own unrealistic expectations.

Instead, give yourself permission to slow down and lower your expectations so both you and your loved ones can enjoy your time together during the holidays.

5. Embrace saying “no”

Part of planning to do less during the holidays also means learning to say “no” without hesitation or guilt.

Think of your holiday mission statement you created in tip one. Say “yes” to the holiday activities, events and to-dos that align with your mission statement and add value to your holiday season. Say “no” to anything that doesn’t align with your holiday vision or mission statement.

Learning to say “no” can take some practice. Especially when you’re used to saying yes even if it negatively impacts your own well-being. But remember, if you say “yes” to everything, you’ll end up exhausted, overwhelmed and burnt out.

And because it’s impossible to do everything, remind yourself that everytime you say “yes” to something, it means saying “no” to something else. Make sure you are saving your “yeses” for the things that are most important to you.

Know your limits and embrace saying “no”. Sometimes you even have to say no to good things so you are able to say yes to the great things that mean the most to you.

6. Make self-care a priority

Taking good care of yourself is essential to survive and thrive during the busy holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person. And remember, self-care isn’t just bubble baths and manicures (although those can be great too)!

There are many other important ways to take care of yourself during the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person (or any time of year)!

First, make sure you get plenty of sleep and healthy food. Holiday parties, activities, events and our own to-do lists often mean less sleep and not so great food choices. Both of which can make you feel worse, especially if you’re already feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

In addition to scheduling in quiet time to rest, making sleep a priority is very important for Highly Sensitive People. And fueling your body with healthy foods that make you feel good will also help maintain your overall well-being.

Getting in some regular exercise is another great way to prioritize self-care. It can be as simple as going for a walk or doing some gentle yoga. Regular exercise is a great way to help with feelings of anxiety, stress and overwhelm. All of which can be common for Highly Sensitive People.

Meditation or breathing exercises are more great self-care practices for Highly Sensitive People.

Breathing exercises can help you feel more grounded, especially when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

And meditation is an excellent way to become more mindful of how you’re feeling. This allows you to learn to listen to your body and mind. So you can recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed and be more proactive in taking care of yourself.

7. Shop less and shop online

For most of us, the holidays involve buying and giving gifts. But busy, crowded shopping malls can feel particularly torturous for Highly Sensitive People. Two great ways to reduce the stress of going to busy, crowded shopping malls are shopping less and shopping online.

Shop less

Remember that quality is more important than quantity when buying gifts. And quality doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with cost.

A thoughtful, intentionally chosen gift the person will use and love will be more meaningful than a bunch of generic gifts. A small token that shows the person you know them, pay attention to what they use and enjoy, etc. will often make the person feel more love than a large number of gifts that required little thought. You don’t need more gifts to show more love!

A great way to think of thoughtful gifts is by thinking about what the person enjoys. Then looking for experience or consumable gifts to align with their interests and preferences. Check out this post for a huge list of thoughtful (and clutter-free!) gift ideas to get you started!

Shop online

Shopping online can be a wonderful way for Highly Sensitive People to avoid the crowds, traffic, and general hustle and bustle of shopping altogether.

8. Choose less holiday “stuff”

I’ve talked before about how minimalism and less “stuff” is beneficial for Highly Sensitive People. This is true any time of year, but especially during the holidays.

I love Christmas decorations. But I very quickly feel suffocated by all the extra “stuff” if I overdo the decorations.

If you’re decorating for the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person, let go of what you feel you “should” do. Only do as much or as little decorating as you prefer.

For example, a few twinkle lights and some soft Christmas music can make your home feel cozy and full of holiday spirit. No need to fill every nook and cranny with decorations.

9. Be gentle with yourself

Sometimes the holidays don’t always feel easy. Despite all your planning, you may still feel busy. Or you might have a hard day that leaves you overwhelmed. Maybe you feel exhausted at the end of a big event, even if you enjoyed it! Or maybe you’re missing someone special and those feelings feel bigger and harder over the holidays.

Remember to be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to feel these things and maybe not enjoy every moment of the holidays. Especially if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person and feel your emotions (and often the emotions of those around you) more deeply.

Be gentle with yourself. Take a break, rest, step back, re-evaluate what you’re doing and why. Find a moment of quiet and calm to center yourself. Accept that some days will be harder than others.

Navigating the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person can make life challenging at times. But remember, the more you understand your sensitive nature, the better you are able to find ways to work with it, rather than against it.

10. Be open and honest about your Highly Sensitive nature

Being open and honest about your needs as a Highly Sensitive Person can help the people who love you understand and support you better.

Be open about your need for quiet time to rest. Share why you are choosing to do less this holiday season. Be honest about your limits and the boundaries you are setting.

Not everyone will understand, but hopefully, by being open and honest you can share where you’re coming from and start the conversation with the people you love.

How to survive - and enjoy! - the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

I hope these tips will help you survive and hopefully enjoy the holidays as a Highly Sensitive Person. Being a Highly Sensitive Person can make life challenging at times, especially during the busy holiday season. But embracing your sensitive nature, and working with it, rather than against it can make a big difference.

If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, what do you find most challenging during the holiday season? What do you do to better cope during the holidays? Are you planning to do anything different this holiday season to help you enjoy the holidays more?

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  1. I have commented on the website that I do not put up a Christmas tree. Two little dogs share this space, and really there is no place for a tree. I will bring out my Advent wreath on 12/2, the First Sunday in Advent.
    I purchased a few handmade items from an online small-business facilitator in late October. This business takes care of payments and shipping notices, but the items are shipped from their creators. The items I bought most likely could not be found locally, and I don’t like shopping in crowds.

    1. Those sound like great ways to simplify the holidays for yourself this year. Well done! I really appreciate online shopping as well for holiday gifts. I find the busy stores and malls really overwhelming and stressful. Thanks for reading and sharing the ways you work to simplify the holidays!

  2. Great tips! I find that not only highly sensitive people would enjoy this article, but also anyone that likes simplicity in their lives. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thanks, Sandra! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I totally agree with you. I wrote the post for HSP, but it can absolutely apply to anyone who is looking to simplify – Highly Sensitive or not! Thanks for reading 🙂

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