You’re feeling drained, like you’ve been through a washing machine, and you’re grouchy. Where did this feeling come from?
You spend all morning in a blanket fort, the thought of getting up just absolutely unbearable. You’re feeling drained, sort of like you’ve been through a washing machine, you’re grouchy, and maybe you’ve even snapped at someone important over practically nothing… Where did this feeling come from?
The “introvert hangover” is real, my friends. Real and terrible.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get an alarm installed that would start beeping every time you were near the low-battery, grouchy-must-sleep-please-leave-me-alone feeling?
“Well, it’s been fun hanging out with you, but I—” beep, beep “—I need to leave now.”
The cool thing is, though, your body likely does give you some cues that an introvert hangover, in all its horrors, is settling in. With practice, including mindfulness and giving yourself permission for alone time as self-care, learning to read your body’s cues about an introvert hangover can get easier. Here are some common bodily and mental cues to listen to.
Cues From Your Body That an Introvert Hangover Is Coming On
1. You experience unusual muscle aches.
We’ve all felt it: You release the tension in your shoulders and they fall about a mile back into place. Wow, I think, I never realized I was that tense. The introvert hangover onset creates stress in my entire body, usually without me realizing it. That is, until I’m wondering the next morning: Why does my back hurt?!
Do you ever find your back, neck, shoulders, or jaws hurt for what seems like no reason? Particularly when you’re stressed? Well, when you’re stressed, your muscles tense up — part of the fight-or-flight response — and overly tense muscles can lead to pain and soreness.
For introverts, the stress of having to stay “on” in a social situation (when you know you really need time to yourself) can cause actual tension in the body. Especially if you’re a warrior type of introvert trying to power through life, you might not even realize how exhausted you are until your body starts actually hurting. So the next time your muscles start to hurt, check in with yourself.
2. You get spacey and have trouble paying attention.
I’m thinking about the beautiful, beautiful daydream in my head: I’m at the beach, the sun is setting, there’s a crisp smell of salt and coconut wafting over my nose…
“So what do you think?” a colleague asks me.
I just about fall over. I’ve been so in my head, I didn’t notice someone talking to me. Spacing out, not noticing someone talking to you, or generally being surprised by your physical surroundings means your attention is wandering, and you’re nearing the end of your people energy.
3. Your mind is so out of it that you can’t even daydream.
On the other hand, sometimes the introvert hangover acts like a gut punch that steals my thoughts right out of my head. Like many introverts, I’m an expert daydreamer, always thinking, planning, imagining… But when I’m exhausted or I’ve just been around people too long, my thoughts just don’t think right. I’m socialed-out, and trying to access creativity or my imagination is just not going to work.
You know that daydream you often lose yourself in? That daydream? (Mine is I’m hiking an autumnal mountain with a puppy). When you’re nearing the introvert hangover, even that daydream won’t come to you.
4. You find yourself saying, “Uh, okay.”
“Uh, okay” — the response I say when I’m not really invested in the conversation. While many introverts make great listeners, there comes a point when I know I’m pretty much done. I need to do something, anything, other than be around all these talking people! Before I snap at someone, or more likely go crawl under a table and try to take a nap right there, my conversational skills start fading.
Answering a slew of questions with a well-thought-out response becomes impossible:
“Do you want to order pizza?”
“Uh, okay,” I answer.
“What do you think about my new significant other?”
“Do you prefer peaches or pears?”
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5. No matter what, you can’t smile.
You try to smile, but it’s forced, like you’re putting a plastic mask over your face. Your mouth is in the shape of a smile… but your eyes simply won’t.
Forcing yourself to make “happy” facial expressions is likely an early cue that you’re fading, that your introvert energy is getting low, that it would really be a good choice to cut this one short and get in some good recharge time… since an introvert hangover is lurking in the not-too-distant future.
6. Doing little things is incredibly difficult.
I stare at my keyboard and find I’ve entirely forgotten how to type. Or I look back at a document and it’s full of words with red underlines from spelling mistakes. Other times, just sitting up straight is a challenge. At a long dinner event, I once totally missed my mouth with a forkful of cake. There was frosting all over my face, and I had no way to explain that I was just too tired to focus on eating properly.
That was sure embarrassing, but it was also a cue that my mind and body weren’t functioning as they should. When little, menial tasks — think tying your shoes, zipping a sweatshirt, locating your car keys in your pocket — seem impossible, there’s a good chance social exhaustion is kicking in.
7. You can’t remember what you were doing.
Little things may be difficult to do when an introvert hangover is near, but have you ever walked into a room and had absolutely no idea why you did? Or opened your mouth to say something, but the words just flew away from you? Or reread the same paragraph three times and still had no idea what it was about?
Being exhausted makes it really hard to focus. When you’ve had a few of these trick moments of feeling forgetful, it’s likely your battery is at a low and an introvert hangover is coming soon…
8. You fidget, like tapping your foot under the table without realizing it.
Picking at your skin, tapping your foot under the table, and generally fidgeting -– these can all be cues that anxiety and exhaustion are encroaching. My body is trying to deal with them before I even notice they’re there.
These same body cues — fidgeting — can demonstrate discomfort and indicate that an introvert hangover is coming on. Granted, these bodily cues could, of course, mean anxiety and exhaustion from a variety of outside sources. But if you realize them when you’ve been around people for a while, there’s a good chance they’re signs of the dreaded introvert hangover.
9. You get tunnel vision and literally start to see things differently.
When I’m exhausted, I literally start to see things differently — the edges of the room start to blur, I have a hard time focusing on the face of the person talking to me, and there’s so much distracting me: a ringing in my ears, tight shoulders, the start of a headache… If you notice it’s difficult to focus your eyes and your peripheral vision seems blurry, it could be another sign of impending social exhaustion.
Introvert, it’s time to start using those superpower listening skills for you now — whether they’re mental or physical. The introvert hangover sucks. But by practicing mindfulness, and listening to the cues your body gives you, you can prevent it before it even begins.
My fellow introverts, what cues do you get that an introvert hangover is coming on? I’d love to hear in the comments below!