Although the pent-up demand for socializing may feel more intense than ever, perhaps the only benefit of the pandemic’s two-plus years (at least for introverts) is the normalization of alone time, says clinical psychologist Laurie Helgo, PhD, author. who Introverted power.
“One of the silver linings of the pandemic is the discovery that how many of us enjoy working from home, connecting remotely and wearing comfortable clothes,” Dr. Helgo says. “Memes and skits celebrating these indulgences should reassure any introvert that we have a common language in our lifestyle preferences.” So, when you re-enter the social sphere as an introvert, you can take solace in the fact that those around you will understand or fully relate to your enjoyment of alone time or your desire to take a break from crowded environments.
Just knowing this can help you feel less drained from social encounters, and make it easier to turn down invitations or dive in early if you reach the limits of your sociability. At the same time, it’s also possible to plan your calendar and engage with others in a way that minimizes your risk of social burnout from the jump. Below, find advice from psychologists on how to re-enter the world as an introvert without experiencing complete social burnout.
5 tips from psychologists to avoid social fatigue as an introvert
1. Be honest with friends and family members about how you feel
Letting people know directly can waste a lot of social time for you, or it takes a lot of energy for you to engage in social outings, taking a huge weight off the experience. “Just be honest,” Dr. Helgo says. “To friends, you can say something like, ‘It was so hard to leave my dog and my couch tonight. You all make it worth it!’ Or if you’re meeting someone new, bring up a topic that reflects your interview, like asking them about their favorite pandemic binge show.”
“Now is our time to speak from an ‘introverted perspective,’ and people at least understand, if not recognize, introverted preferences.” -Laurie Helgo, PhD, clinical psychologist
Being honest can help you find sources of connection with others that make conversations less exhausting. “In my book, Introverted powerI challenge introverts to stop living from the ‘extrovert mindset’ or the assumption that all people like extroverts,” says Dr. Helgo. “Now is our time to talk from the ‘introvert mindset,’ and people at least understand, if not recognize, introvert preferences.
If this sounds awkward, Dr. Helgo suggests first writing down your honest thoughts about socializing in a journal. “It can help you become more comfortable with your reality, spot humor and insight, and make your self-awareness more shareable,” she says.
2. Plan specific social and non-social days
Dr. It may seem counterintuitive at first blush, but grouping social outings or get-togethers on specific days can actually help reduce social fatigue in introverts, according to Helgo. According to Helgo.
“That way, you can leave yourself complete ‘no prep’ days, or days that free you of mental energy and work to get ready to spend time with other people,” she says. On those free days between social days, you can still hook up with a close friend or family member (which you don’t necessarily have to mentally prepare to hang out for) but you don’t schedule anything that requires you to actually choose. Dress up or get ready.
Instead, be sure to use that downtime for rest or restorative activities like playing with a pet, reading, or watching TV—all of which can help you recharge your social batteries, says clinical psychologist Amy Daramus, PsyD. “Be sure to listen to your mind and body to see what’s working for you and what isn’t. It’s possible that a certain show or novel is more relaxing than another.”
3. On social days, leave a gap between events to recharge
Although grouping social outings on certain days can be a smart move, avoid stacking them Immediately Back-to-back, if possible. Instead, leave at least a 30-minute break between social obligations.
“If you can create a large gap between appointments, aim to fit in a single date, such as a quiet walk or bookstore browsing, to give yourself the time you need for reflection and processing,” Dr. Helgo says. “Recharges like this can actually boost your social connections, giving you more authentic content — like a book or part of a city or just brainstorming ideas that arise from you — that you can talk about with friends later.”
4. Match social activities with your values or interests
For introverts, any social activity brings a bit of a social drain, but the effect will be much less if the activity reflects one of your core values, Dr. Helgo says. “For example, if you value close friendships or partnerships highly, and your presence at a particular event means a lot to this person, the event itself may feel ‘worthwhile’ to attend, even though it is usually quite exhausting.”
The same goes for any event that involves a personal interest—like a charity event for a cause you care deeply about, a movie outing if you’re at a movie, or a sports game for your favorite team. “Play to your liking,” said Dr. Daramus says. “Pick and choose events that you know you can get excited about.” In the same area, she suggests prioritizing low-key events, like spa outings or movie nights, that don’t involve a lot of social energy, even if desired. That way, you can ensure you’re still engaging in low-lift social outings and connecting introspectively with friends and loved ones, keeping the risk of social burnout low.
When an event that doesn’t meet the above criteria comes up, you might feel better saying “no,” Dr. Helgo says. “One warning sign of this is having any feelings of ‘premeditated resentment,’ or the feeling that you know you’re going to get angry after being present,” she says. “In that case, denial might be a more effective response for everyone.”
5. Seek a sense of privacy and be quiet around others
Sometimes, even with all the prioritization and schedule-planning you’ve done, you’ll still end up in an exhausting event with no easy exit. In that case, using breathing techniques to reset and recharge even when surrounded by other people can be helpful, says clinical psychologist Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., author. Nervous Energy: Harness the power of your anxiety.
She suggests what she calls cocoon breathing, which she advises practicing alone first. “Take a big breath, and if you’re alone, let your eyelids close as you exhale,” she says. “On your next inhale, imagine your eyelids closing again, and on the following exhale, imagine your shoulders dropping. With each exhale after that, picture one part of your body relaxing, and drawing a privacy curtain around you, creating a cocoon. Imagine. Then, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes.
Minus the closed-eyes part, you can do the exact same breathing exercises when you’re around others in a crowd or other socially draining environment, she says. “By practicing the exercise in its most private form, you may be able to activate the same sense of privacy and relaxation even with open eyes.”
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