When I wrote the blog post “How I Became an Early Christmas Shopper”, I suggested that the reason why I felt more inclined to shop earlier and avoid the mayhem of malls in December, was perhaps a question of becoming more sensitive.
One year later, after a series of discussions with a therapist, I realize it may not be a question of “becoming” more sensitive. In all likelihood, I always was.
Even though I stand right on the line between introvert and extrovert, with one foot well into extrovert territory, it is still easy for me to get overwhelmed. There is no shortage of events in the month of December to overcharge one’s senses:
– Faster pace: The office often gets busier with a surge of activity in trying to tie up loose ends on projects and produce the last status reports of the year, before everyone takes vacation time.
– More activity: The social calendar tends to fill with holiday parties and lunches with family, friends and co-workers.
– Sensory stimulation: Shopping malls with lights and decorations hanging from every nook and cranny, with the aroma of hundreds of perfumes hanging in the air, as music blares from shops like they are nightclubs, while kids scream from being hungry, too warm, too tired or all of the above.
– And on an empathetic level, as much as people romanticize it as being “the most wonderful time of the year”, there is no shortage of negative energy in the air to soak up through people’s rushing, their impatience, their aggressive driving and their temper tantrums in stores.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognize and count my blessings in being so fortunate with a great job, great family, friends and co-workers, and the privilege of being able to shop for the people I care for. It’s just that if I am not careful in pacing myself, the sights, sounds and rush of activity in the month of December can lead to sensory overload for me.
When that happens, I can get tired, cranky and my energy starts fading as my body tells me to moderate or retreat. If I am not careful, my cocktail party small talk will reflect that. To be a welcomed addition to parties and not a Debbie Downer, it is up to me to find solutions to make December manageable for my own level of sensitivity.
If that means moving the shopping to October or November, when stores are less busy and parking lots are not like Thunderdome, then gift ideas will need to be presented to me before the Halloween candy has disappeared.
If it means doing smaller grocery runs earlier in the week, to be able to use Express lanes and to be in and out of grocery stores within minutes, I will make the adjustment.
If it means postponing some lunches with friends until January when my calendar isn’t overflowing, I think the friends will understand.
If it means deliberately scheduling time to relax to keep my batteries recharged throughout the busy month, then that’s something I need to do.
I remember years when I didn’t manage my time and my commitments properly and I sometimes felt like I would have preferred to be at home. That’s not me and that was totally my mistake. Even though I was having fun at social gatherings and getting energized along the way, it wasn’t enough to compensate for my fatigue.
December’s frantic pace will not go away. I accept that. I just need to be mindful in adjusting my calendar ahead of time and reschedule the activities that are really within my power to do so (like shopping, wrapping, decorating, and one-on-one lunches). I now understand that I need to moderate my intake and exposure to the sights, sounds, smells and negative emotions that can potentially sap my energy.
As I sit here on December 9th writing this, with only one more gift to purchase, I reassure myself that I did the right thing in taking better control of my schedule this year. Instead of stressing out and lining up to get into a shopping mall today, I can savour the moments of baking, blogging and Christmas card writing, at a very relaxed and enjoyable pace.
In doing so, I know my batteries can recharge for the social commitments ahead, allowing me to truly feel present, in the moment and enjoying the traditions of the season to their fullest.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,