Introverts can easily experience social exhaustion, which can show up as burnout.
Between work, family, and life’s added stressors, burnout has become somewhat of a phenomenon these days. It happens when someone becomes exhausted and unable to cope.
Burnout is most commonly seen in people who are overworked and oversocialized, or people who find it challenging to separate their home, social, and work lives. Although anyone can suffer from burnout, there’s a specific group of people that may be more susceptible to its effects: introverts.
Generally, introverts require a lower level of stimulation when collaborating and socializing. At the same time, we’re vulnerable to a higher level of burnout if there is an unhealthy balance between those activities and time to recharge. We can easily experience social exhaustion, which can show up as burnout.
As introverts, we’re unique creatures, so in turn, our experience with burnout is going to be unique. Here are four reasons introverts may be more prone to burnout (and some remedies to treat it).
4 Reasons Why Introverts May Be More Prone to Burnout
1. We do our best to meet society’s expectations (which is exhausting).
Work events, weddings, baby showers, house-warming parties, graduation ceremonies, happy hours, club sports, dates, concerts… a full life gives us opportunities to connect with others and create memories. A booked calendar might excite extroverts, but because these opportunities require conversation and attentive energy, we introverts are required to turn our personalities and our charm “on.” When we do our best to meet society where society is, we reach our threshold for socializing quickly, which makes us vulnerable to burnout. This experience is referred to as the introvert hangover, an intense exhaustion from socializing.
And, unfortunately, society doesn’t always meet us where we are — on the couch, recovering. So, when we fall short of societal pressure and take the time to reground, it can appear to others that we don’t appreciate the fun that comes with a booked calendar, which we know isn’t true. Get to know your limits, acknowledge boundaries, communicate your needs, and rest without guilt.
2. After giving our all to the day’s requirements, there’s not a lot left to give to mundane tasks.
Mail the letter at the post office, answer emails, grocery shop, clean the garage, play fetch with the dog, donate library books, call grandparents, schedule a doctor’s appointment, book the hotel, vacuum the car… it seems my to-do list is getting longer while the days get shorter. And it’s not like any of these tasks are overly hard or time-consuming. But they can add up.
After subjecting ourselves to the day’s requirements and answering to family and work needs, introverts may have little energy left to dedicate to these mundane tasks. And, in order to be ready for the next day’s requirements, we need self-care to recharge.
The irony is we love productivity, but need the rest to actually be productive. The to-do list will always be there. Take care of yourself first and practice self-care, from doing something creative to napping.
3. We take on tasks for others, like our loved ones.
We already know introverts may be more at risk for burnout after a hard day’s work. But we also know introverts are loyal. We care strongly for those we love. Some of us demonstrate that through acts of service, which is a love language that is loosely defined as connection through shared responsibility. As a form of connection and nurture, we may take on our loved ones’ responsibilities.
Even after tackling our own to-do lists, we may seek to do simple things (like the mundane tasks listed above) for loved ones that will ease their burden and help them avoid burnout. You can probably guess what this results in… burnout for us.
The appreciation that follows can help us overcome the feelings of burnout. Lean into your deepest relationships, but don’t forget about setting boundaries, either, and not overextending yourself.
4. We’re routine-oriented and prefer structure.
In order to effectively socialize, complete our to-do lists, and take care of our loved ones, we introverts capitalize on routine. Many of us “quiet ones” thrive when there is some sense of predictability and certainty in our day.
However, no matter how much we plan ahead, routines get disrupted. We get pulled in different directions to do different things for different people, and when we have to act on our feet, it can have us feeling burnt out by the end of the day.
So what should an introvert do? Be intentional and deliberate so life’s disruptors don’t cause such big collisions that you’re unable to revisit your routine when the time finally comes. Of course, having a schedule can help, as well as scheduling in anticipated “emergencies,” like a sudden grocery store run for your family or picking your friend up from a delayed flight at the airport.
One of the surprising ways to avoid burnout is to focus on seamlessly transitioning from one task to the next. The transition helps prevent your work life from bleeding into your personal life, and vice-versa. Build structure around what you need to accomplish for the work day, then separately, activities such as exercise, time with loved ones, getting outside, or cleaning the house. Make a plan, gather items you’ll need for each activity ahead of time, and communicate any logistics to those involved. Even if each day looks different for you, some structure will help you from feeling overwhelmed.
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Be Careful: Burnout Can Show Up as Depression
We know that introverts enjoy alone time and prefer listening over speaking and keeping to the outer edges of the crowd. Although this is our normal, some people see the urge to withdraw as a common sign of depression or social anxiety.
These people aren’t necessarily wrong. In fact, we introverts do often experience social anxiety from increased time spent with people or at events. Some introverts have constant social anxiety while others do not. And, as we’ve seen, social anxiety can result in burnout.
Another reason introverts are more prone to burnout is when we’re approached by enough people, enough times, about why we’re not engaging at the same level as them, our burnout can show up as depression. It can feel like people don’t understand us and we’re not accepted in the social sphere. So instead of feeling motivated to “get out there” in the world, we may retreat back into our shells… a lot.
Although there are differences between burnout and depression, because of the overlapping symptoms — like sleep troubles, fatigue, and a lack of motivation, all of which interfere with your daily life — they can feel like the same experience. While burnout usually has a cause or stressor(s) behind it, depression is a diagnosable mental health condition that does not necessarily have a cause; depression can last even after the stressor is gone.
When You Feel Burnout Coming On, Try to Stop It in Its Tracks
Based on your experience with burnout, the feeling can sometimes be easy to predict. Other times, the irritability, brain fog, reduced creativity, and exhaustion show up unexpectedly. When it feels like everyone wants a piece of you, you’re spread too thin, and burnout might be on the horizon, rest. And rest some more. We all deserve to live our best lives without burning out.
While tending to burnout can feel alienating at times, self-advocacy and putting an emphasis on self-care will help you recharge. If you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone — and also remember that “no” is a complete sentence.
And, most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether from loved ones or via a professional, such as a therapist.
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