5 Self-Soothing Techniques for Introverts Who Feel Overstimulated

An overstimulated introvert plays with her cat

Simply put, we introverts get to the point where our meter runs out — and there’s nothing left to give.

As an introvert, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had an “introvert hangover” — when an introvert spends too much time socializing and feels physically and mentally depleted the next day. Even with the people who I love the most, I can still find myself overstimulated by their company, needing quiet time — alone — to recharge. When this happens, it’s crucial that I look for ways to regulate my nervous system, in order to ease the tension and anxiety.

Once we introverts have reached the point of being social past our energy levels, we may start to feel as though we’re being forced to continue socializing. This experience may make us hyper-aware of our every move, which in turn can make us even more anxious, uncomfortable, or drained. But, simply put, we introverts get to the point where our meter runs out — and there’s nothing left to give. 

When I feel overstimulated, there are a few tactics I use to calm down and self-soothe.

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5 Self-Soothing Techniques for Introverts Who Feel Overstimulated 

1. Find a physical outlet to work off some of that extra energy, like taking a walk or meditating.

One year, I hosted Christmas at my apartment. The living room was full of people, and I wanted to be a great host. I ensured people had enough food and drinks, and that serving plates and silverware were out for meals. I was exhausted — I was constantly cleaning and had to spend most of the day around my family. 

At a certain point, my mind was racing and I started to feel panicked, especially when family members began sharing things that upset or bothered them about the world. I was soaking all  the tension and negativity in and needed some time to myself — stat.   

First, I went to the patio to lie down in my hammock, but family members came outside to talk to me. Next, I decided to take my dog on a walk, and then I stayed outside until I calmed down. Getting some fresh air and moving my body usually helps, because I’m able to put my excessive energy somewhere. I can apply it to a task, which helps clear my mind. Anxiety sometimes causes us to curl into ourselves, but it’s important to remember that there are natural soothers in the world like grass, fresh air, and sunlight.

Other ways to work off some of that excess energy is by doing some light exercise or stretching, such as meditating or doing yoga. I know focusing on the body can be difficult when overstimulated, but it’s incredibly important and grounding. Anxiety can cause us to hold tension in our bodies, especially our shoulders. Finding ways to target those areas with light exercise or stretching can calm the body and help soothe the overstimulation. 

2. Talk through the issue with someone you trust who understands your situation.

Many introverts have had to defend their introverted tendencies to extroverts, and that can make an already tense situation much worse. Introverts don’t choose to become overstimulated — it just happens. We can easily go from having a great time to having a terrible time, and that shift depends heavily on how much stimulation we’ve had recently.

An introvert who just recharged might have a higher threshold for stimulation, but an introvert who has spent a lot of time with others — without a break — might feel their meter run out faster. If you’re in a social situation where leaving isn’t easy, something that can help is to talk about your anxiety and overstimulation with someone you trust. They might be able to give you a pep talk or help you ground your energy.

If there’s no one directly around you that brings you comfort, then messaging a good friend and asking if they have time to talk to you about the issue might help. They may give you alternative perspectives or validate your feelings in a way that makes you feel calmer. This can also keep you from expressing yourself to just anyone and receiving negative feedback from someone who doesn’t understand.

3. Find a soothing activity that brings you joy or happiness, such as playing your favorite video game.

I live with my (extroverted) husband and a roommate, and I can find myself overstimulated after hours of spending time together. They enjoy talking, watching wrestling videos, and playing games together. Sometimes, I’ll join in on these activities, or I might sit with them and read a book. Once they’ve invited others over, or if they’re being loud, it can become too much for me, and I have to get some space.

What I will often do is go to my room and lie down in bed under the covers. I’ll read a book or play a soothing game (I usually enjoy farming or crafting games). Being alone cuts down on the energy I use when spending time with others in general. I’ll close the door so it muffles the sound, which immediately calms me down (most days, anyway). And I find that lying in the dark is extra soothing. I create a low vibrational space, my very own introvert sanctuary, to collect myself and take a breather before bed. 

If people are visiting and spending time alone isn’t an option, I’ll invite my guests to engage in an activity that involves working on projects individually. At the end of my wedding reception, for example, when my family was settling down for the evening in the Airbnb we’d rented, I pulled out some blank canvases and acrylic paints. Everyone could continue to spend time together, but in an introvert-friendly way. So I was able to soothe myself and focus on my painting, and not have to worry about coming up with interesting conversation topics.

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4. Communicate your needs to others who can help.

Sometimes when we’re overstimulated, we can feel like we’re drowning. This can cause high levels of anxiety and bouts of depression. Earlier, I discussed talking about the issue with someone who might understand you, but something else you can do is find a way to communicate your need for help. 

Since shame and guilt often travel with anxiety, it’s important to take some of those negative feelings out of the equation. People can’t help us if we’re not capable of expressing what’s wrong.

Talking about the issue can often help, because then people won’t misunderstand your actions. Introverts who are overstimulated might behave in ways that extroverts don’t understand — for example, we may shut down and appear rude (but not on purpose!) — and that’s when communication is critical. 

Explain you’re feeling overstimulated, and then express what you need to feel better. For example, maybe you need some alone time — or to leave the event altogether. If you arrived with someone, tell them you’re ready to go. If people are visiting you, explain that you need some time to yourself. It may not be easy, but it’s necessary for self-care.

Then be sure to follow through and keep any promises you may have made about contacting them at a future date (or returning once you’ve calmed down). People who care about us shouldn’t want us to suffer in silence, so try to be transparent. Trust me — they’ll appreciate it more than if you say nothing at all.

5. Journal about your thoughts, which is therapeutic.

If you find yourself alone and still dealing with anxiety and overstimulation, try journaling. There are different approaches to the practice, but it’s important to follow what you feel you need. 

If you want to vent, then go ahead and list every anxious thought tumbling around in your head. This could help clear the negative thoughts out and (literally) put them somewhere else. If you’d like to practice gratitude, then write down some things you’re proud of or grateful for. You can also make to-do lists or write down fake conversations you might want to have with someone. 

Your journal is for you, so use it how you feel it will best help you. A big thing for me is to just write how I’m feeling, and why (or where) that feeling comes from — it helps me process that emotion while also getting it out and onto paper. It’s like a form of therapy (but free!) — and yet another way we can self-soothe when we feel overstimulated.

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