6 Essential Tips for Navigating Family Functions as an Introvert

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Attending family functions can be challenging for introverts who prefer quiet, low-key activities and get-togethers. However, sometimes you’re obligated to do things you don’t necessarily like, especially as you get older.

While it might seem like the end of the world, family functions aren’t always something to dread. There are ways to deal with the lovable chaos, judgmental aunts and awkward small talk as an introvert without losing your mind. Here are six essential tips to handling family functions.

Take Quiet Breaks

Introverts are familiar with the “social battery” — a metaphor for losing steam in social situations. Although not a medical term, introverts expend much of their energy interacting with others, causing them to have to recharge their social battery more often.

Family functions are especially energy zapping. For instance, you may feel overstimulated by large groups and lots of noise. Dealing with insensitive or disagreeing relatives could also cause undue stress.

Be sure to take plenty of breaks —such as stepping into an empty room or going for a short walk — when attending a family function. Even retreating to a quiet corner for a few minutes will help you catch your breath.

Make a Plan

Plan how you will go about the family function before leaving the house. For instance, who do you intend to spend most of your time talking to? Who would you prefer to limit interactions with? You don’t have to engage with everyone at the party.

You may prefer to stay in one room and let people come to you, or make a mental list of talking points so you aren’t grasping for straws in conversation. Any preparation will ease your overwhelming feelings.

Realistically, you shouldn’t expect to enjoy every minute with family. However, a positive attitude about spending time with loved ones you haven’t seen for a while will make for a much better time.

Create an Exit Strategy

If you’re concerned about getting stuck at a family function, devise an excuse to leave. For instance, you could tell your relative you can only stay for an hour or two because you already made plans with a friend on the same day. This gives you a set timeline for socializing with family and leaving without an argument.

Remember to park down the street so you can easily back your car out whenever you want. Otherwise, guests might corner you with their vehicles.

What if someone passed away? Here’s the good news — funeral etiquette says you don’t have to stay long during calling hours. Of course, the caveat is how close you were to the relative, as people might expect you to stick around. Use your best judgment, but know there is a way to exit quietly and respectfully.

Bring Someone Along

Would a trusted friend put you at ease? Ask the host if you can bring a plus one — they may even know your family already. Holiday parties and weddings are much more manageable when there’s somebody you’re comfortable talking to and letting your guard down with.

Ensure whoever tags along understands your need for support. This could be a more outgoing person who’s attended social events with you before. Sometimes, leaning on someone who has an easier time interacting with others helps break the ice.

Practice Relaxation Strategies

Learning mindfulness coping strategies for overstimulating situations — like your cousin’s baby’s first birthday or your brother’s graduation party — will help relax you. According to one study, meditating for 30 minutes three to five times weekly relieves stress and anxiety. However, a mere 10 minutes has a profound effect, too.

Breathing exercises and listening to calming music are other helpful relaxation methods. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at a family function, simply excuse yourself to another room to practice these mindfulness techniques.

Learn to Say “No”

You may not be able to get out of going to a relative’s funeral or your grandmother’s 90th birthday, but you can say no to other functions. A new poll says the average American will attend five winter gatherings this year. Must three of them be your relatives’ holiday parties? You’ll probably see most of your family members at one party anyway. Likewise, being pulled into games can make you tense up.

Honor your introversion and avoid feeling guilty for saying no to certain gatherings or activities. If your family knows you well, they’ll understand. Better yet, they will likely leave the door open for you to join, just in case you change your mind.

Embrace Family Functions as an Introvert

It’s OK if family functions aren’t for you. Everyone has a relative they prefer not to see or would rather run away than find themselves in awkward situations. Still, these survival tips for family functions can help every introvert make it through.

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