The holiday season is here in all its sparkly, festive glory. While I like the idea of the holidays, as an introvert they present an array of challenges. For what is December for many of us but one long list of social invites and obligations? If, like me, you need time to yourself to decompress, there are some ways to survive all those soirees and keep your sanity. At least, that’s how I do it.

Plan out when you’re going out and when you’re staying in

Only go to those events you really want to or you really need to (yes, there is a difference).I know, I know. You don’t want to go to any of them. Or at least I never do. Even the things that sound somewhat fun lose their luster when I start picturing myself in my favorite flannel cupcake jammies with a book and some hot buttered rum. It is crucial that you find a balance between hibernating through the festivities and running yourself ragged jumping for every invitation you receive. As a list maker, I keep two lists—Delighted (the things I genuinely want to attend) and Demanded (the things I need to attend for professional reasons or because my mom will never let me live it down). If something doesn’t find a place on either of those lists, I send a nice reply to the issuer declining but thanking them for thinking of me.

Make sure to leave some spaces in your calendar

If at all possible, try to spread out what you attend. I find that if I don’t have the down time I need, I get cranky and resentful. So when I can, I try to limit my social interactions when I know my calendar is already packed with holiday events. For example, I might skip drinks with co-workers if I am going to be hitting the workplace Christmas party that same week.

Pace all the holiday cocktails

I once had a guy tell me that introverts are just extroverts who aren’t drunk enough. Don’t listen to this guy. He was gross and wrong. Enjoy your cocktails, but don’t use them as a way to loosen up in a way you won’t remember (or wish you didn’t remember) the next day.

Get a party pal

When it’s possible, have a pal who can make the holiday rounds with you. Or maybe even a few who can rotate in off the bench as needed. Not only will they help you feel more comfortable in the social settings, but it will provide someone to help you make an exit when needed. Just make sure to check with your host for whatever the event to ensure that guests are welcome.

Stock up on simple, easy gifts

Maybe it’s a Southern thing, but I am have always heard you should never arrive at a party empty handed. Take advantage of the seasonal sales to buy something simple like peanut brittle or inexpensive wine in multiples. Tie some inexpensive red satin ribbon around the bottle or the container and grab your gift on your way out the door. A host or hostess is probably much less likely to judge you strolling in late or cutting out early if you have a little treat in hand when you glide through the door.

Dress for you and the party

I am not going to lie—all the glittery holiday dresses are so tempting. My inner girlie-girl still has visions of herself as a sparkly, sugar plum treat in fabulous heels and a festive frock. However, if this is not how you would normally dress, don’t get sucked in. Pick a few simple pieces that are comfortable and can be well-accessorized to get you through the holiday season. You will feel less longing for those flannel cupcake jammies if your feet aren’t killing you and your dress isn’t constantly creeping up (or down).

Now, keeping those basics in mind, here are some scenarios you might encounter on your Demanded list along with some tips for surviving.

Go to the office party, but don’t be the last to leave

This is a toughie, depending on where you work. Sometimes the office party becomes like, well, The Office with the boss being seven degrees of inappropriate and people unleashing their inner drunken freak. Apply Rule 3 heavily here. Set a window of time for how long you plan to stay and stick to it. You probably have a built in Party Pal from work—make the rounds with him or her, then hit the road. That way you’ve made an appearance, but you don’t get sucked into debauchery or endless conversations.

Be honest with your partner

For any event with your other half, depending on how long you have been dating, it is best to be honest with him or her. Don’t pretend you are the party girl when inside those jammies are still calling you. Be honest with your feelings about attending the event, that you want to be supportive, but you don’t want to end up standing in a corner by yourself (unless that is where you want to be). A colleague of mine who has been married for almost 40 years told me a pretty good technique for going to any event with your significant other when you are an introvert (as she and I both are): Grab your sweetie’s hand and let him or her be the one to engage people. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk to people; certainly, if you feel like it, chat it up. But don’t feel like you are there to be judged or be the center of attention, even if it seems that way. Let your date be the focus and enjoy seeing how s/he responds in a situation you don’t see them in every day. It might just show you a side you never knew existed.

No matter the circumstances, more than anything, don’t let the season overwhelm you. Recharge when you can. When all else fails, duck into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and remind yourself that the holidays come but once a year.

[Image via Fox]