As an introvert, I need to say no to certain activities to maintain my mental wellbeing.
Sometimes I feel I’ve never done anything fun where I didn’t simultaneously wish I was home in bed. No matter how much I’m looking forward to something, when I put it on my calendar, I end up dreading it as the day approaches.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a party, a vacation, or any other special occasion. About 24 to 48 hours in advance, my anxiety kicks in, and I find myself wishing I was doing pretty much anything besides attending a social event.
I’m an introvert, and I’m also a highly sensitive person (HSP). Loud parties and raucous bars hold no appeal for me. My usual happy place is curled up in my apartment with my music at just the right decibel level, the heat at the perfect temperature, and the lights dimmed to a low glow.
Sounds peaceful, right?
Now imagine a crowd of 100,000 people on a Saturday night in Munich, attending Oktoberfest, one of the craziest, most world renowned parties in existence. That image is very unlike my usual happy place, yet it was where I found myself on a recent trip to Europe.
If you think this sounds like a bad idea, you’d be correct.
Sometimes Even Introverts Crave Adventure
My experience at Oktoberfest was part of a tour of Europe with a group of about two dozen other 20-somethings. For 10 days I lived with, ate with, shared a bus with, and walked the streets with a group of complete strangers.
Not only did I embark on this trip willingly, but I forked over quite a large chunk of my hard-earned savings to go.
Just because I’m an introvert and HSP doesn’t mean I don’t crave the occasional adventure and excitement. It just means this need is also at odds with my desire to control my surroundings and, therefore, my energy levels. It’s a struggle I live with every day, and neither part of my nature ever feels completely satisfied.
When I tell people I’m an introvert, or when people observe my quiet nature, they have a tendency to assume that all I like to do is stay home and read books. That’s a fair assessment, especially since I talk about my homebody nature quite a bit.
Yet while I consider being alone my natural state, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy doing other things as well, such as occasionally traveling to foreign countries and meeting new people. It just means that before I start enjoying these things, I’m often filled with an overwhelming sense of dread.
Sometimes this feeling subsides enough for me to start having fun. But sometimes it doesn’t.
An Introvert’s Nightmare
As I left the hotel the night of Oktoberfest, I was filled with more than my fair share of trepidation. But I told myself that I was just overreacting. I was 24 years old and currently experiencing the trip of a lifetime. If I was ever going to go out and get crazy, it was definitely tonight.
Except I knew deep down this wasn’t going to be something I’d actually enjoy. I rarely get anything more than tipsy even at home, and that’s where I’m familiar with my surroundings and know the language the bartender is speaking.
As I joined the crushing crowd of Oktoberfest partiers, I felt myself kicking into sensory overload. The noise was deafening, and I had to scream into the ear of my friend next to me to be heard. I clung to the sleeve of her shirt so we wouldn’t be separated in the throng of people, but I found it nearly impossible to keep my grip as I was jostled on all sides.
It took what felt like hours to make it several hundred feet to the closest beer tent. Even after shoving our way inside where the throng was slightly less dense, I felt agitated, shaky, and a little dizzy.
Believe me when I say these were not happy, adrenaline-fueled responses.
I was overstimulated and completely overwhelmed.
I knew this feeling would only grow worse as the evening progressed. My gut was telling me to leave. One other introvert in our group was not having a good time either, and despite not even knowing her name before that night, we managed to communicate that we both wanted to get out.
I Say No to Preserve My Introvert Battery
I’d like to tell you that I felt empowered by my decision to leave Oktoberfest. Unfortunately, that’s not wholly the truth.
The next morning, my friends were full of stories about dancing on tables and meeting cute guys from foreign countries. Once again, I felt that all-too-familiar inner war between the part of me that wishes to be spontaneous and the part of me that longs for my comfort zone.
Did I make the right decision last night?
Controlling my energy levels, and the sense of overstimulation that is directly tied to it, is a balancing act. Many compare being an introvert with having an internal battery that is easily depleted and needs to be recharged after exposure to other people. When I go on a big vacation, especially with people I don’t know, I want to use this battery.
But the reality is I need to do so sparingly in order to make it last the whole trip — and that’s okay.
I believe, in the end, I did make the right decision. Sometimes you gotta fight for your right not to party.
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For Introverts, It’s About Maintaining Mental Health
As an introvert, I need to say no to certain activities to maintain my mental health. That might mean skipping the big party. Or going home early, even if others are staying late.
Unfortunately, that’s not something everyone understands.
The struggle might be mental rather than physical, but for me, it’s no different than refusing a piece of cake that might give me a stomachache or a liter of Oktoberfest beer that might induce a hangover. No one would judge a person for making decisions based on their physical health, so quit judging introverts for attempting to maintain their mental health.
There are few hard-and-fast rules for maintaining mental health like there are for healthy eating. You need to figure out what works for you based on your own level of introversion or extroversion. One person’s party might be another person’s worst nightmare. The key is not trying to be wild and spontaneous as someone else sees it, but being wild and spontaneous for who you are as an individual.
I’m still finding that balance, but the more I test my comfort zone, the closer I come to finding where my boundaries lie.
Perhaps next time, I might consider dancing on a few tables. Or maybe I’ll just dance at home by myself, where the lighting is perfect and the volume of the music is just right.