Christian festivals can be deeply encouraging occasions with great teaching and joyful, hope-filled fellowship. They can also be noisy, crowded, exhausting affairs, where you are on the go from daybreak to midnight without a moment's respite.
Remember, introverts are simply those whose energy is restored as they spend time attending to the inner life.
We are all different, with differing needs, but introverts can cope with people, crowds, noise, sleeplessness, heat, and even communal sanitation. It's just that we need to withdraw to recharge our batteries, which means we need coping strategies...which can be hard when we are away from our normal routine and many of our healthy habits are disrupted.
So what can we do? Here are 10 ideas:
- Join in – there’s lots of good stuff at festivals and you will benefit from participation. Don't allow introversion to isolate you.
- Familiarise yourself - with the site, the programme, and the facilities. Introverts don't need the overstimulation of doing five things at once, so take time to find your way round.
- Don't try to do everything - it is better to do a few things and be blessed by them than to do everything and get exhausted. I aim for two or three things each day, and enjoy space when others are busy.
- Seek out the quieter spaces, the 'sanctuary' equivalent - most conferences have provision for people who need to reflect, pray, and process. And if you need to sleep then do! Mystic tradition tells us that sleep is the deepest form of prayer.
- Don't always do as you are told - some conferences are full of instructions to stand up, sit down, clap, shout, or whatever. Worship is about focussing on Jesus. It is more important to respond to Christ than to the leader with a microphone. It is even OK to wander around outside during worship and come in during the talk, or to sit on the grass outside a tent and listen.
- Consider how you respond to noise and crowds and respond accordingly - if volume is a problem for you, use discreet ear plugs. If crowds bother you, limit the number of times you join the throng each day; many festivals have radio or even TV broadcasts. Some of us don't mind volume, and find crowds an easy space to be alone in; notice where you are actually fed, and where you aren't.
- Remember that people engage with you because they care - if you want space take some 'props' that let others know you are OK. If you are just sitting alone, extroverts think you're lonely. If you are reading a book, they tend to think you want to read.
- Seek the things that feed you: daily rhythm, intimate conversations, walks, and peace - looking at the programme ahead helps you make space for you to be you...
- Enlist allies - talk to people who care for you about how this will be, and let them help you create space; they might benefit too!
- Try to reserve a little space to recharge when you get home.