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.

How to Survive the Holidays When You Are Highly Sensitive

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!