As an introvert, I experience this intense feeling during and after socializing. Sometimes it completely exhausts me. To an extrovert, this may seem odd.
Let me share with you a little about the unique “hangover” I am experiencing this morning. My husband and I had a small dinner party with friends last night. I was excited about having people over to our house, and I was looking forward to a night of fun and good times with our friends. I’m an introvert, but I was fairly comfortable with the situation because I was in my own home and only had two people to talk to.
And it was indeed an enjoyable evening. Let me be clear, I had a good time. Nevertheless, it took a lot out of me, hence, the hangover I am left with today. Let me explain what happened; if you’re an introvert, maybe you can relate.
This Should Be Fun, Right?
My night started out great and was going smoothly. But then it started to happen. I started to feel out of sorts and overwhelmed with the situation. There was a lot of conversation going on and some long bouts of awkward small talk. What started as a fun night was suddenly feeling a bit “too much.”
After three hours of chatting, laughing, and entertaining my guests, I thought to myself… All right, this has been enjoyable, but I’m ready for them to go home NOW. I don’t want to do this anymore!
I felt guilty for feeling this way, but I could tell that I was getting very, very close to reaching my personal threshold for socializing. But, as a gracious party host, I didn’t have it in me to just kick out our guests. That wasn’t an option, if I wanted to remain polite. Plus my extroverted husband was still laughing, talking, and having a wonderful time — and I didn’t want to be “that person” who put a damper on his fun. So what was I to do?
I was experiencing the first hint of the awful “introvert hangover.” I often experience this intense feeling during and after socializing. Sometimes it completely exhausts me and wears me out. Depending on the type of socializing I have done and the circumstances surrounding it, it can cause me such extreme exhaustion that even my bones seem to hurt, and I need the entire next day to rest and recover.
To someone who is not an introvert, this may seem a bit odd. After all, why would something as enjoyable as socializing not be energizing and fun? Right?
Why Do Introverts Get a ‘Hangover’ From Socializing?
In general, extroverts tend to find socializing exciting. In fact, they thrive on it. It’s an opportunity to let loose and have fun. It’s not that an introvert doesn’t want to socialize or have fun; they just approach the situation a little differently. Since introverts and extroverts also have different brain chemistry, there’s a definite contrast in how we deal with “people-ing.”
A lot of this has to do with a chemical called dopamine that the brain releases during pleasurable activities, including social ones. Extroverts have a more active dopamine system than introverts, so they generally respond to social events by experiencing a positive rush. Essentially, this positive rush gives them energy to overcome the fatigue of socializing. (You can read more about the science behind this phenomenon here.)
For example, an extrovert may walk into a crowded party and dive right into the action. Everywhere they look, they see opportunities. They may even feel so excited that they don’t know where to start or who to approach first. This is due to the positive rush they get from it all.
The introvert, on the other hand, will walk into that same party and may experience overwhelming thoughts and feelings right away. For instance, the loud music and chatter may be distracting. We might feel awkward, because we really do want to connect with others and have fun, but we’re not sure how to go about it. Large, noisy, crowded parties can sometimes be too much. And that is because the introvert’s energy is easily depleted, leaving them with the crucial need for time alone to compensate.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be socializing on a large scale (like a big party or a loud concert) that can bring us to our limits. Every introvert is different, but I’ve found that sometimes even small, intimate gatherings will bring on the introvert hangover — as I found out at my dinner party.
How I Used a ‘Time Out’ to Lessen My Introvert Hangover
Here are a few things that helped me survive my evening when I started to feel like I’d had enough. First, I knew I had to regroup and get away for a few minutes, so I politely excused myself, stating that I was going to take the dog outside for her evening walk. No one thought anything of it, and I was able to get outside — and away from the pressure to socialize — for a while and clear my head.
My walk helped me considerably. I was able to take a step back from the party and redirect my focus. I can’t deny the fact that I was still close to “done” for the night when I got back inside, but having that time to mentally regroup helped me get through the rest of the evening a little easier.
I also found that I was able to discreetly take a couple more “time outs” for the remainder of our evening. I did so in the form of disappearing into the kitchen for a few minutes, heading upstairs to the bathroom, and then taking a couple extra minutes to just breathe and relax. I feel I did it tastefully and subtly enough so I didn’t come across as rude or disinterested to my guests.
While my time outs don’t ever completely prevent an introvert hangover, they do help. And allowing myself to take a break from it all for a few minutes lessens the effects of the hangover the next day. It also helps me in the moment when I feel like my socializing limits are being tested.
If you’re an introvert like me who experiences feelings of overwhelm and apprehension during social events, remember to breathe. Be aware of how you’re feeling, and be sure to take that time to mentally regroup — even if it’s just five minutes. There’s nothing wrong with politely excusing yourself for a few moments. Chances are, no one will even notice or care. Truth be told, most people are usually so wrapped up in what they’re doing and in their own conversations that they don’t fully notice what others are doing.
If you find yourself at an event and you feel as if you’ve had enough, that’s okay, too. Know your limits, and know when it’s simply time to leave.
This morning, I’m still pretty exhausted. I can’t lie. My head is pounding and my body aches. My extroverted husband is laughing at me because I didn’t have a drop of alcohol last night. But I made it through the party using my own coping strategies, and I understand where my tiredness stems from. I’ve grown used to my “hangovers” and have accepted them as simply part of being an introvert.
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Curing Your Introvert Hangover
Dear introvert, it’s important that we accept that we are more prone to social burnout and are aware of our limits. It’s healthy for us to know when we’ve had enough. It’s not only healthy, but also a necessity for us to nurture our hangovers as needed and recharge ourselves, mentally and physically.
If you’re suffering from an introvert hangover, be compassionate with yourself and realize that it’s okay to relax and take care of yourself. In fact, I’m off to take a nap right now. I think it’s just what I need. I’m pretty confident that, with time, I’ll feel better — and you can, too.