How to deal with tiredness caused by social interaction?
October 19, 2011 12:47 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal better with the tiredness caused by social interactions?

Inspired by this comment I read recently, I’ve been thinking about how being a naturally introverted person out in the big bad world with all those other people might be tiring me out. I think that interacting socially with other people (at work, in the supermarket, when socialising or whatever) enervates me more than it does most people. If I do spend an unusual amount of time with other people I definitely need a good chunk of alone time to re-charge my batteries.

So what can I do to either mitigate the tiring effect of being around other people, gain more ‘socialising stamina’ or speed up my recovery rate?
posted by neilb449 to Human Relations (30 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
Practice being more blunt and directing the conversation. Take it to interesting places quickly. Pretending to care is exhausting and we introverts aren't so good at empathizing.
posted by michaelh at 12:54 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Laugh more. The most tiring thing for me, by far, is listening to someone complain for a long time, especially when I have no advice and can't do much about it. Probably the second worse is listening to them talk about something I don't care about at all or actively dislike and having to be polite about it. So, focus more on joking around. If someone is complaining to you, try to lighten the mood with laughter. If someone is droning on, try to change the subject to something interesting in the environment. Double up socializing with actually doing things...get people to walk with you on the way somewhere, or run errands with you, so you don't feel like they're eating up your precious time.

Or you can do what I end up doing and maintain a scatterbrained, insanely busy but well-meaning persona, and have a repetoire of excuses for cutting things short. That seems to work well, as long as you can maintain quality socializing for the short periods you keep up with people.
posted by Nixy at 1:03 PM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Have you read Caring for Your Introvert?

While I don't know how to mitigate the tiring effect of being around other people, how to gain more socializing stamina or speed up my recovery rate, letting other people know that I am an introvert and need my time to recover has helped me immensely. I have a friend who is EXTROVERTED! She's a pretty good friend. She always wants me to do stuff with her and is always getting a group of friends together (the horror!). When I realized that this was a real friendship and that she was extroverted and I was introverted I made sure to tell her that's the way I was. And she's good with it. She knows I need my time away. She knows that larger groups freak me out and she understands that I probably won't be participating or will be cutting out early.

That doesn't help with recharging your batteries, and honestly I don't know how to do that quickly. For me it takes time and that's the way it is. No short cuts.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:09 PM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


A lot of it for me is little sensory breaks. A few minutes walking alone in a park, or a few minutes with my ipod playing music I love, even a few minutes with my eyes closed on public transportation doing a mini-meditation. Isolate yourself in some small way for a few minutes to recharge.
posted by ldthomps at 1:11 PM on October 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


Save it for when it matters. In which case, the supermarket doesn't matter. Think of it this way--you carry around a bucket labeled "Socializing." You wake up in the morning with your bucket full. Every time you interact socially with someone, you're withdrawing from that bucket, so make it count. The people who aren't worth your socialization energy don't get any. If you have a circumstance where you need to expend lots of your bucket at once (like a party or a wedding), save up your bucket-full in advance so that you have the extra in reserves. Spend the day/time up to the event relaxing, taking time to yourself, and being alone. And afterward, withdraw back in your own space and recharge.
posted by litnerd at 1:20 PM on October 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Scheduling. Pacing. I find on days when I have a lot of social obligations on top of necessary functions of daily life that it's "important for me not to surpass my capacity for responsibility" on top of it.

So, if I have a day where I'm doing things that require more draining interactions, I'd better plan on doing less on the next few if possible. So, one day is "Run all the errands!" and the next day or two is "Online work from home without interruption!" then comes "Play day!". It helps when those days fall in a particular order, be they singles or doubles, but so I have a rhythm and can plan or be as open as "I'm free for that every Thursday" instead of having to juggle.

I make a plan for a day where all the errands are run in an organized fashion, with nothing to derail, I can do it, feel successful, and move forward. If I do all the errands, I then can spend a day or two at home working without needing to leave the house or be distracted by "shoulds". If I do all my work, I can have a day where I can volunteer, meet two different friends for coffee at two different times, get my hair cut and goof off a bit. Budgeting my energy over an entire day is easier than constantly trying to react and recover. Knowing I'll have a chance to recover after I push through what needs to be done lets me reach my limits too, and replenish, instead of constantly drawing on reserves and never knowing when the well is going to run dry.
posted by peagood at 1:23 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was about to link to "Caring for Your Introvert". Great article.
posted by Koko at 1:24 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm in the same boat, but I'm a college professor who has to teach and interact with students and colleagues five days a week. I've handled it with a combination of three things - (1) mini-breaks, where I shut my laptop lid, close my eyes for 5 minutes, and try to think about nothing, (2) having an understanding wife who doesn't make me feel guilty when I crash after an afternoon of two classes and a committee meeting, and (3) acknowledging that this is an issue to be mitigated rather than a personal problem to be solved.

The third one is the direct consequence of a previous AskMefi question. I'm from an extroverted family and married into another one, and no one ever explained to me that introverts not only avoid social interaction, but that it is physically exhausting. Reading that thread (which I wish I could find for you) was like the scales falling from my eyes. So many things fell into place - it was transformative.
posted by brozek at 2:13 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm introverted, although not severely so. I find that the easiest way to interact with people in a social situation is to ask people about something they're interested in or something about their life. Then, all you have to do is ask the appropriate follow up questions and let them do all the heavy lifting.
posted by reenum at 2:19 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


What helps me most is to openly own my introversion without any shame. "You're all going out after work to SuperNoisy PopularNightspot? Sounds great — have fun! Me? *chuckle* Nah, but thanks — I've been spending my introvert points pretty freely this week, so I'm just going to go home and recharge. Have a great time!"

The key to making this believable is to let go of any sense of shame about being introverted. If I thought that I was somehow inferior or inadequate for not being an extravert, it wouldn't really matter what I said to anybody else, I'd still feel rotten.
posted by Lexica at 2:35 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would try practicing awareness of your own mood during the day. Like every hour or so, ask yourself, "do I feel relaxed and focused right now, or tired and overwhelmed?" And if you do feel tired and overwhelmed I would try taking a short break to recharge. I find a cup of herbal tea is really helpful for bringing you back to feeling grounded. I also try sometimes putting a face mask on (depending where I am obviously) to rest my eyes.
posted by costanza at 2:54 PM on October 19, 2011


Pretending to care is exhausting and we introverts aren't so good at empathizing.

This is terrible advice and has nothing to do with being an introvert. You have trouble empathizing, not every other introvert.

OP, be aware that you are not a freak or anti-social, you just operate different. That has helped me the most. Not feeling shame for needing a day of my weekend for just me. The shame/feelings of selfishness was draining during my rest time so I barely ever felt up to snuff. Relaxing and realizing I'm not beholden to others expectations on how socially engaged I am has made me happier and more active!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:20 PM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Music helps regenerate, but I've also come out of the introvert closet to my closest friends and family as an introvert. And, I'll say to people I don't know so well, "I've used up all the social interaction time allotted today, so I'm going to go sit in a corner now. See ya." Say it with a good sense of humor and self-deprecatingly, then just go sit in that corner. Opting out of social interactions should not be the huge social taboo it currently is.

Of course, with work etc. this is not really doable, so there's no way around it. I myself have gotten around it by finding a job that does not require any interaction at all.
posted by zachawry at 3:21 PM on October 19, 2011


Reduce your interactions with people.

iPhones are great social tools too, and they have a very short battery life.
posted by tel3path at 4:11 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I use a sort of videogame life bar metaphor for it. Like I have a Social Interaction Meter that fills up as I do things, and when it fills up completely I need to hide somewhere and let it go back to zero. Everyone's Life Meter is a different size, and you should know and plan when it will be full.

I tend to be pretty extroverted, but I'm learning to recognize that sometimes I just NEED to shut off the phone and stay home for a day. Its nothing to be ashamed of.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:26 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me, wearing obvious headphones (not earbuds) both allows me to listen to music, which I find to be calming (the sensory break mentioned above), and means that people will not interact with me unless they really need to. This might be perceived as rude in some contexts, but allows me to save my social energies for interacting with people who are important to me.

The other thing is to get excited about alone time, and to somehow communicate this to others. I think that extroverted people tend to interpret the fact that you are spending time alone as an undesirable one for you, and therefore will invite you to places. So instead of responding that I don't have anything planned, I'm going to respond that I'm looking forward to getting some reading done over a cup of tea. It helps that many of my friends are also introverts, so they get it.
posted by lookoutbelow at 4:29 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can also carve out little introverted spaces. I play pinball at pubs, but you can take 5 minutes to play games on your phone or something. People will think you're just texting
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:41 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, stepping outside is a very good way to recharge, too.

(It almost makes me wish I were a smoker. :)
posted by zachawry at 4:41 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The other thing is to get excited about alone time, and to somehow communicate this to others. I think that extroverted people tend to interpret the fact that you are spending time alone as an undesirable one for you, and therefore will invite you to places. So instead of responding that I don't have anything planned, I'm going to respond that I'm looking forward to getting some reading done over a cup of tea. It helps that many of my friends are also introverts, so they get it.

If you're at all geeky or have geeky friends, there are about 6 heavily hyped videogames out now that are an easy excuse, even if you don't play them. 'Sorry, gotta stay home with Arkham City/Skyrim/Demon Souls/Gears of Manliness'
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:57 PM on October 19, 2011


I am an introvert who used to be tired by socializing, because I was trying too hard to be extroverted. Once I learned how to be a social introvert, by being quieter but attentive, smiling, asking questions etc., I can socialize for hours without fatigue. I'll usually stay on the fringes of whatever conversation is going on, waiting for the topic to change to one of interest, or an opportunity to be witty, at which time I'll pipe up.
posted by blargerz at 4:59 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Think of it this way--you carry around a bucket labeled "Socializing." You wake up in the morning with your bucket full.

For me that's not how it works. Sometimes I wake up with the bucket empty. Those are the bad days. Assuming that every day will be the same -- and therefore that just because you were able to handle something today means you'll be able to handle it tomorrow -- is a Bad Idea.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:00 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, I like the phrase "pretending to care is exhausting." It's true! Listening to your tale of woe? I'd rather clean a litter box.
I'm an extrovert, though. Still, don't bore me!
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:26 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


there are about 6 heavily hyped videogames out now that are an easy excuse, even if you don't play them

Not sure if this works. What if your friend is into the same game?
posted by madcaptenor at 5:42 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not sure if this works. What if your friend is into the same game?

"Yeah I loved the parts where I shot those aliens, and beating up the bad guys was fun"
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:19 PM on October 19, 2011


I've said this in response to other questions but I want to reiterate: sleep and food are important in maintaining energy and emotional stamina. If I'm well-rested and well-fed, I can socialize for hours. If I'm tired and hungry and my blood-sugar is crashing - forget it. I'm cranky and want to go home NOW.

If you know you are going to be doing a lot of extroverted-type activities, make sure you get enough sleep the night before. A little pre-party cat-nap - emphasizing the "little" and "cat-nap" - no more than a half-hour - can put some fuel in your energy tank. (Rock-solid daytime naps are usually a bad idea and can be a sign you are not sleeping well at night, but short, light power naps or cat naps have been proven to increase well-being.)

Also be sure you eat enough and preferably something with lean protein. If you are running around with friends who can seemingly live on air, or cocktails, carry some almonds or other snack with you if you get hungry (or insist on stopping to eat - I've had to put my foot down more than once).

You may never turn into a party-hearty go-all-night extrovert, but being well-fed and well-rested will do a lot to increase your stamina and improve your mood.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:46 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Take breaks. I have literally gone into a bathroom stall and read stuff on my phone for five or ten minutes just to get a break. It makes a HUGE difference. If you can't hide in a bathroom, go for a walk around the block, or pretend to do an errand, or tell people that you're going to be a few minutes late to whatever the next thing in the day is.

Also, at work, I almost always find a way to go for lunch by myself. The few people who've noticed think it's weird, but that break is what makes me a pleasant person to work with.
posted by Kololo at 7:04 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Here are some things that help me:

1 - I plan ahead a lot. If something big is coming up, I don't expend a lot of energy on frivolous socializing. I do whatever I can to make sure I'm well rested for the event.

2 - I leave a lot of flexible time in my schedule, to do whatever I want to do.

3 - I try to give myself an "out" for events, so that if I'm miserable I can leave (take my own car, etc). It is often not needed but makes me feel better.

4 - I meditate. Little things don't phase me, so I don't spend a lot of energy where it's not needed. It's a huge commitment but worth it.

5 - I have learned what foods my body likes and doesn't like. Same with exercise. I have been eating a mostly raw vegetarian diet and doing Yoga. It makes a tremendous difference, just having more overall energy.
posted by icanbreathe at 11:09 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


When out by yourself and perhaps at work, depending on the work environment, wear headphones, big chunky colorful headphones that are visible a mile away and keep your ears warm like a pair of ear muffs. It doesn't matter whether you are really listening to anything. Just having headphones over your ears is a visual clue that you are busy listening to something else and that a burst of smalltalk now, assuming you even heard it, would force you to stop listening to what you're listening to, hit the stop on your player, and remove the headphones just so you can ask the speaker to repeat what they just said. Smalltalk withers under the pressure to repeat things that were barely important enough to say once.
posted by pracowity at 2:09 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


introverts UNITE!
We need to organize to protect ourselves from a world that is set up to wear us down! <> But seriously, as others have said, simply recognizing that this is normal for introverts helped me a lot. When you need to be very public, schedule some down time. And dont be afraid to retreat to your shell.
posted by dougiedd at 5:48 PM on October 23, 2011


Practice being more blunt and directing the conversation. Take it to interesting places quickly. Pretending to care is exhausting and we introverts aren't so good at empathizing.

I'm really glad for this thread; I've always been told it's a personality flaw when I have a hard time acting interested for hours on end.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 6:49 PM on November 7, 2011


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