Holiday parties are torture for introverts. Who’s with me?! All that loud music, the awkward chit-chat standing around in uncomfortable shoes. I used to dread the holiday season just because every weekend was another Christmas party to attend. No more! I have crafted a fail-proof holiday party survival plan for introverts.

As a life coach, let me say first that if you don’t want to go to the party, PLEASE, for the love of all that is gingerbread scented, DON’T GO! You don’t have to feel obligated. You don’t have to feel badly for not going and you REALLY don’t have to make excuses. Simply repeat after me:

“I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it, but thanks ever so much for the invitation!”

End of story.

HOWEVER, if you choose to go, here’s how to make any party a pleasure instead of a pain.

1. Dress in something that makes you feel amazing.

There is nothing that will make you feel more in the spotlight than a dress you have to keep yanking up (or down). Keep it simple. Keep it classy.

2. Don’t overindulge in alcohol.

A little bit of alcohol can be a social lubricant but too much forces you out of your shell. This drains your energy while creating a vulnerability hangover, not to mention the possibility of a physical hangover too.

3. Take frequent timeouts.

The key to happy holiday party-going is energy conservation. So take frequent breaks from the buzzy party atmosphere. Find a quiet spot and spend 10 minutes grounding yourself. Take deep, slow breaths to get back in your body. No need to rush. Once you feel like yourself again, you can head back out. Repeat as often as necessary.

4. Be yourself.

Oh, that old chestnut. But how?! Be a little vulnerable. Admit that you’re not the best in large crowds. Risk starting conversations that are meaningful or interesting to you. Introverts have trouble with small talk because we value deeper communication; quality not quantity. Try practicing genuine curiosity about the people you meet. Find out who they really are.

5. Have an exit strategy; use as needed.

Even with timeouts, if you are unable to get grounded or if you feel tired, over stimulated, or just out of sorts, it’s time to say goodbye. I give you permission to leave early. Go on, it’s okay. Find the host/hostess thank them for their hospitality and say goodnight.

Now go put on your sassy pants; it’s time to party!