3 Tips for When Social Burnout Leads to Flare Ups in Mental Illness
As an introvert, living on my own was a godsend, but I didn’t realize it until I unexpectedly took in a roommate. It wasn’t a big deal at the time — seeing how I was actually dating said “friend” — but it seemed that during my few months of solitude, I had forgotten how to live with another person. Especially someone more than just a roommate I could hide away from. This person was someone I actually enjoyed spending most of my time with.
Around the same time, one of my good friends from college moved into my apartment complex, which meant I found myself spending more time with him, too. Add to that other recent grad get-togethers and meetups, and soon enough, I wasn’t feeling like myself.
I became drowsy and irritable, to the point of snapping at people. My depression and anxiety were creeping back again, despite me having them under control for the most part. It wasn’t until I realized I’d been running on empty for weeks that I finally understood why. For weeks, for months, I hadn’t been given a chance to recuperate from all the socializing. As much as I enjoyed being out with friends and my girlfriend, I just — needed — a — break.
I know I’m not the only one who gets caught up in this cycle, because I’m not unique in my introversion. Nonetheless, I want to share three tips for introverts to recuperate some energy in the face of depression or anxiety.
How to Recharge When Mental Illness Threatens
1. Schedule a “closed door” weekend.
This plan never used to have a name, but now it seems it needs a particular title, because soon I’ll need a reason for disappearing once a month from Friday to Sunday.
Back in college, when I wasn’t working, my weekends consisted of only two things: my bed and Netflix. When people asked me what I liked to do for fun, that’s what I would answer: “Lay in bed and watch Netflix.”
Now that I’m a grown up, there are things that need to be done on weekends that get in the way of that old habit. Not to mention, I don’t actually want to spend every weekend of my life in bed, away from the world, no matter how socially exhausted I am. Now, my weekends are spent cleaning, thrifting, hiking, out with friends — and none of that leaves much time for my first love (my bed).
Despite that, I still need it every now and then. I still need weekends where I fall off the radar, weekends where even my girlfriend isn’t allowed to stir me out of bed to go to the movies. It’s as if I have a sign on my door that says, “No people allowed, unless you have snacks or the cat.”
Of course, “closed door weekends” aren’t a new thing in the repertoire of a veteran introvert. The hardest part is trying to explain to the people you love why you need them. It’s nothing personal; you just need a chance to be alone and recharge your batteries. Sometimes that can be done in a few hours, sometimes it takes a weekend, sometimes longer. Half the reason I go home to visit my dad in the country is to escape from everyone.
2. Treat yourself to a small change.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself, especially if you’re an introvert who struggles with depression like I do. When you begin to hear the whispers of negativity, that’s your cue to do some self-care.
For everyone, treating themselves is different — for some it’s a hot bath with oils, for others it’s a nice meal. For me, it’s something visual, like a new bedspread or poster I see everyday on my way out of the apartment. It’s not a big change, but it’s enough to breathe some life into my daily routine. As my dad (and probably every dad at some point), used to tell me, “a change is as good as a rest.”
When a new piece of decor isn’t enough, my next step is a haircut. Chopping off my hair — or even just styling it differently — makes me feel like a new person. It gives the old me a chance to hide away and take a nap until she’s needed again. Having something to look forward to every morning (like seeing my new hair in the mirror while I brush my teeth) is just so satisfying. It makes me want to be better, to be different, and to live up to the cool vibe my new hair gives. But maybe that’s just me.
3. Set aside time for hobbies.
This one has always stuck with me. I don’t remember where I read it, but it was along these lines: Depression makes you bored of all your hobbies, but you have to keep doing them anyway. Even if you have to force yourself by putting the time into whatever you used to love, chances are your depressive cloud will lift for a moment, and you’ll remember why you love the thing so much.
For me, that’s drawing. When I’m not writing, I’m drawing — two things that require attention to detail, but two things that are also very introvert-friendly. I love nothing more than putting in my headphones and sitting at my desk for eight hours on a Saturday, sketching on my computer.
Not only does drawing carry over into my writing, but it keeps the creativity centers of my brain charged up — because, like muscles, your creativity centers have to be worked constantly in order to keep them strong.
Maybe your hobby is running. Maybe it’s art. Maybe it’s birdwatching. Whatever it is, do it. Maybe you feel too tired, too depressed, or too anxious, but I promise you, there’s a reason you came to love the thing in the first place. Getting back into it will not only remind you of your lost love, but offer you a space to curl up in when you need to rest from socializing.
Don’t be ashamed because you need time and space to recharge. Sometimes, you just need a break — and putting it off might do more harm than good.
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Read this: How to Survive a Job Interview When You’re an Introvert With Crippling Social Anxiety
Image credit: @sangriel via Twenty20