I really want to hang out but I'd also like to stay cuddled up in bed..
January 16, 2016 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on building a more vibrant social life, but I'm going against the grain of my introvert tendencies. It takes a tremendous amount of energy for me to meet and hang out with friends, and I want to have more energy to do this. Help this homebody create the energy to be more social..

So.. I'm at that point in a long term relationship where I've realized I really need to invest in my social life outside of the couple. So I'm making dates with friends, signing up for events, going out .. The problem? I'm having fun but this is all super exhausting for me! I'd rather just lay in bed cuddled up with my lady. Thing is, I've realized that staying cuddled up in bed with the lady every single weekend of the year does not lead to my sustained happiness. I end up neglecting my friends, my need for space and my sense of adventure. When I go out with friends or attend events, everything improves -- including the relationship. But it's so damned hard! As an introvert, the very social situations I need to bring balance to my life also drain my energy.

Looking around my social network, it seems like there are some people who just have more "social energy" than I do. They have more drive and energy to invest in their social life. I, on the other hand, feel pretty exhausted by socializing.. although I typically enjoy myself when I go out, it takes a lot of energy to make myself do it. I'm putting in the effort, however, because I know I want a more balanced life and my life feels better when I'm connected to my friends and meeting new people.

My question is: how do introverts learn to create the energy required to invest in their social lives? This all feels Really! Hard! and I can accept that.. however, if there are hacks and things I should be doing or reading that would make this easier, I'd love to know. I understand that making this much of a lifestyle change is going to be a process and it will take time.. but I'm wondering if other introverts have actually learned how to generate the energy it requires to remain connected to friends and actually get out of the house and go to social events. I want to hear success stories.. or at least tales of progress.. Is this something that gets easier with time? Will my social muscle grow with sustained effort? Will investing in my self-care help generate the energy I need to be social with others? What does a well-balanced social life for an introvert look like?
posted by Gray Skies to Human Relations (22 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you enjoy the outdoors, hiking, bicycling, kayaking, birdwatching, or other kinds of solitary exercise that can be done in groups as well? Such activities, done via Meetups or outdoor groups, generate energy while providing social connection. Some of the best conversations in my life have been with near strangers on a trail. I've met lots of introverts during outdoor activities then we all go our separate ways, usually home to our books, solitary hobbies, and other indoor pursuits.
posted by Elsie at 10:31 AM on January 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Find a way to do the same (mildly social) thing on a regular basis. That way you don't have to expend effort on coordinating people, or deciding whether to do a thing; you just go.
posted by yarntheory at 10:34 AM on January 16, 2016 [13 favorites]

When I get into phases of being a homebody, something that has helped me is to institute a rule of "always say yes" to social events. (Assuming there are no actual conflicts). That may work for you if you have a barrier of reflexively declining invitations.

Sorry, I'm sick and I can't make that last sentence work so hopefully you understand what I mean.
posted by quaking fajita at 10:42 AM on January 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm an introvert. I've found that regular commitments help me, and it gets easier in time. The first several times I go to a class/meetup/etc, I may struggle quite a lot with feeling anxious and awkward. But if I'm patient and keep turning up without trying too hard, I slowly start to feel more comfortable and it takes less energy for me to show up and participate.
posted by bunderful at 10:54 AM on January 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would get checked out to see if you might be suffering from depression if you're having that hard of a time leaving the house. Otherwise I personally think it's easy to get caught up in abstractions about "creating" and "investing" "energy" - I mean I get that we all need rest - but I don't like the idea that we have these actual tangible energy levels, like a video game character, and if we stay in bed with Netflix for X amount of hours we will collect enough energy points to go do this or that activity with our friends. I'm pretty introverted but I'm not really depressed, so I just tell myself it's time to get up from the couch and go fuckin' Do The Thing. Time to jump in the shower, put my pants on, and go meet my friends at the bar or the coffee shop or the concert or what have you.

The longer I stay in bed, the more demotivated I become. It starts to become like getting out of a Jacuzzi in the dead of winter. But I try to trust that I'll have a good time once I get there, like I do 97% of the time. So developing that social muscle you speak of is just a sort of exposure therapy, facing the fear that you will be "stuck" at some social event having a horrible time when the reality is if you want to go home, you tell people you're not feeling great and go home. Try to remind yourself when you are thinking catastrophically about things, and what the worst case scenario truly is when you go out and meet your own friends.
posted by windbox at 10:59 AM on January 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

I find making sure to balance extrovert events with lots of introvert recharge time is the only thing that works for me. Also prioritizing where I spend my extrovert energy, and saving it for things I truly enjoy. So fewer spouse work parties, more lunches with good friends.
posted by instamatic at 11:01 AM on January 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: As a fellow Introvert, I always make sure:
a) I work out vigorously at least 3 days a week
b) stay hydrated every day
c) get at least 8 hours of sleep each night
d) have a scheduled bedtime and time to get up

Make sure that your body is healthy and has the physical energy to combine with your social energy to make it work and be enjoyable.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 11:04 AM on January 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

I invite friends over for dinner, or to drop by for tea (or meet me near my house at a cafe), which helps make social interaction a little bit more low-key and part of my regular routine, rather than event-based.
posted by tapir-whorf at 11:17 AM on January 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

I agree with tapir-whorf. My best friend and I rarely plan "things" -- one of us goes over to the other one's house and we order dinner, chat, maybe do some crafts or help the other with a household project.

Also would it help you to set a goal for yourself? Like each week you'll do one weeknight activity and one weekend activity. Maybe chart it on a calendar so you can track your progress.

I am not necessarily an introvert but I have a lot of anxiety and a chronic injury, which makes me tend to decline a lot of social events. I realized that when I *do* go to things, I actually do have a good time. When I'm having a good time, I try to remind myself in the moment so that I can remember it in the future.

It's also helpful for me to remember that I don't have to *stay* at every event. I wasn't feeling that great last weekend but my husband really wanted me to go to his friend's birthday dinner. I went to the dinner but then went home when they went barhopping after.
posted by radioamy at 11:38 AM on January 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I think Yarntheory is on to something : find things to do on a regular basis. I used to live in a town where I would stop by the same pub once or twice a week after work to cover socializing.

I've moved since then and am finding a lot of easy socialization via activities with my dogs, specifically walks & dog park visits. I don't like socializing in general, but I love my dogs so this works well for me. If you don't have dogs, find something else that you love and come up with an activity related to that to do on a regular or semi-regular basis.

I'd also recommend the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. It helped me understand my introverted ways.
posted by mulcahy at 1:18 PM on January 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Majorly 2nd Major Matt Mason Dixon. Any of those being out of balance will increase the odds of feeling cranky or staying in, for me. (Including, in the past, too much vigorous exercise - that would leave me feeling overly wired, sometimes.)

Control over exposure to noise is a big one for me. I carry ear plugs with me if I'm going to a bar or venue that has a chance of being loud, stay far away from speakers, and occasionally leave loud places for a noise break. Choosing lower-volume places in the first place is ideal. Really brutally loud noise has occasionally driven me to let a manager or sound person know they should turn it down.

Going out three times a week is about my upper limit. More than that and I don't have the juice to recover or take care of my own stuff.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:42 PM on January 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: How about 1 day a week commitment to getting out? You could even make it Thursday or Friday, for instance, but at least you'd have a time set aside to fill with non-home activity of your choice, vs feeling like it was intruding into what would otherwise be alone/home time.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:59 PM on January 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Balance is key for me. As long as I have filled up my solitary time, i.e. reading/journaling/music etc., is when I feel emotionally charged to socialize with others. I try to keep activities low-key, going to museums, coffee shops, bookstores. Possibly having lunch or dinner with others. Poetry readings, concerts at a smaller, more intimate venue. Maybe learning a hobby or skill and going to classes. Doing yoga or learning aikido, finding group activities that you can socialize but that isn't the main focus works for me.

I struggle with this too, but my social requirements are a lot less than most. Someone upthread mentioned going out of your comfort zone and desensitizing yourself to socialization by jumping in there and becoming extra social. I did this for years, practically nonstop, even living with a bunch of roommates. I actually became more introverted because of it. I personally do not recommend it, although I had learning experiences, some even possibly enjoyable, it negatively impacted me at the time. Some people simply do not understand, yet you must do what feels right for you.
posted by lunastellasol at 2:01 PM on January 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I plan staying in at least one day every weekend and all but one or maximum two weeknights. I schedule my down time and stick to it. This way, I don't feel guilty about staying. It also makes nights out with friends more meaningful and enjoyable.
posted by Milau at 2:37 PM on January 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Meet up with friends to do an activity together, that's not necessarily social. Sometimes I make plans to go to a yoga or spinning class with a friend, or even just head to the gym at the same time. We aren't actually talking while at the place, so it's not a social drain in the same way that having a long talk over lunch is (and going to the gym is something I would be doing anyway, so this also takes something off my to-do list). It's still a way to get out of the house and check in with the friend though.

You can also schedule things that are time limited so the hang is naturally brief, and that are built into your normal schedule so it doesn't seem like extra work to do. For example, meeting up for coffee with a friend before work, chatting in line for your order and eating your scones at a little table together but you have to go to work then, so it's just 20 minutes. Similar would be meeting up for a post work or school happy hour-- you go there straight after your obligation, so there's no time to get lazy at home, and then it can naturally end in an hour when the drinks get more expensive or continue if you both want it to.
posted by sometamegazelle at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For me, what has helped (somewhat; I'm more of a "work in progress" than a "success story") is really paying attention to my energy level overall and not simply as it relates to socializing vs not socializing. The goal is not "socialize more" but "have more energy."

For example, I used to just assume all types of socializing would tire me out, because introvert. But I realized that in reality, while some social activities do ruin me immediately afterwards, others are tiring in more of a nice way, and others actually energize me for the rest of that day (and sometimes the next day) but then I'll feel drained two days later. There are other factors too, like for me taking certain vitamins helps me feel less drained, and eating wheat or rice makes me feel like I'm slipping into a coma, but eating more fruit and vegetables gives me "extra" energy to devote to whatever I want, socializing included. For you it might be hours of sleep per night, exercise, time spent outdoors, or something else. Seemingly random dips in energy might have unexpected causes, and the effects of all these factors can take days or weeks to show up, so you really have to track it.

Once I started trying to increase my energy on the whole, and working to avoid anything that drains my energy overall, I felt like I had more energy for social things. It can also help you to plan, e.g. now I know a full day sightseeing and talking with a friend will be really fun but exhausting, but if I make sure to eat a salad, not a sandwich, while we're hanging out, I'll be so much less tired. It also helps because I know that I can schedule, say, a party and a one-on-one coffee meetup for the same weekend, but never two parties, because the two types of social activity impact me differently.

Also, I'm single so what do I know, but I wonder if you're getting enough time all by yourself. Maybe try spending a few weekends all alone and see if that doesn't spark more motivation to make plans with your other friends, as well as your girlfriend.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:10 PM on January 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My question is: how do introverts learn to create the energy required to invest in their social lives? ...I understand that making this much of a lifestyle change is going to be a process and it will take time.. but I'm wondering if other introverts have actually learned how to generate the energy it requires to remain connected to friends and actually get out of the house and go to social events.

I describe myself as a friendly introvert. I like other people and enjoy hanging out with friends. However, it does cost me energy, and I need time to recharge. You might want to think of it in terms of budgeting energy rather than trying to create it.

If I know I have a busy social period I will conserve my energy by scheduling several days or at least evenings (I have a social job) of down time. That leaves me with enough energy to enjoy the social period. If I've spent too much time being busy busy busy, social social social, without a LOT of down time afterwards to recharge, then I am going to feel drained and cranky. If I've had enough alone or down time (I am fine hanging out with my SO; that doesn't drain me), then I'm happy to socialize.

I also find some social activities more draining than others:
  • one-on-one: small energy cost, especially with close friends
  • small group: slightly larger energy cost, less if I know the people well
  • large group: very "expensive"
I don't need to save up much energy to hang out with small groups of people I know really well, but I definitely need more prep and recovery time if I go to a large-scale gathering. They take a lot out of me (kind of like what DestinationUnknown said).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:30 PM on January 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm pretty introverted myself. To give you an idea of the degree of my solitary tendencies, I work in a cubicle and sometimes just interacting with coworkers is too much. And, I really like them! What's wrong with me? Nothing. I'm just an introvert. I love people, I really do, but it's just exhausting some days. Most times I'm perfectly happy doing my own thing. So anyway, to answer your question, one thing that really helped me was 1.) joining a book club on Meetup, and 2.) the book club branched out to include other specific activities each week of the month, which was the idea of one of our members and it turned out to be a brilliant one. It breaks down like this:

Second Thurs. of each month = book club
Third Thurs. of each month = knitting club
Fourth Thurs. of each month = documentary night

Over these 2 years, I've gotten to know the members so well that we've become really good friends. One had a recent tragic event in her life, and we all banded together over the course of 3 or 4 months to bring her food that she could freeze.

Obviously these activities are very specific and most likely don't apply to your interests, but I've found that getting together for a specific purpose for me initially took the social anxiety out of getting together with others and meeting new people. Over time, those "new people" became my friends and now it's not as draining, partially because I know them and now we're close, but also because what we're doing is really low key.

On a related topic, I recommend The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron and Quiet by Susan Cain.
posted by onecircleaday at 4:31 PM on January 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Also an introvert here, though not in a relationship. I balance things out but making sure, for example, if I have a social night in the evening, I spend the day relaxing alone (usually). Or if I am having a really social Saturday, I won't plan anything for Sunday.

Also, interacting with close friends one-on-one is a lot less tiring than groups or outings...I find often that just meeting a friend for coffee fulfills a social need in a pretty big way. Being social can be low-key; most introverts find that going to a club on a noisy night for example is just too overwhelming on a regular basis; however, meeting a friend for a walk in nature or a chat over coffee can be energizing. So I'd advise you to choose activities like that that interest you already, and also balance the time with the alone time you need to recharge.

For me, scheduling in social time is extremely important- it's easy in a sense to go without it, because I am used to an comfortable being alone, but it's not healthy for me to spend TOO much time completely alone.
posted by bearette at 6:27 PM on January 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also, maybe ask yourself if you really *do* want to go out more and be more social, or if you just feel like you *should* want to. Or you want to want to. There's nothing wrong with being someone who likes hanging out at home more than being social. Don't try to force yourself to do something that's not enjoyable-- what's the point? Try different low-key, introvert-friendly social activities, and maybe you'll hit on one you look forward to. And if you don't, well, invest in a snugglier blanket and queue up the Netflix and enjoy it.
posted by instamatic at 7:48 PM on January 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

As others have said, regular events that don't require planning take less out of me. The only other thing that makes a big difference is socializing with people I know VERY well and feel close to. In the same way that spending time with a partner isn't a drain for me, spending time with them isn't either. When I don't have people like that in my life, I prioritize finding them rather than more casual sorts of socialization with a lot of acquaintances. Sometimes the latter is necessary to meet new people to add to my life, but given the choice between going to a big birthday party at a bar or going to a smaller get-together at someone's house, I'll always choose the latter because it's more likely to lead to the kinds of relationships that I want.
posted by metasarah at 6:13 AM on January 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Skill in working with/dealing with/hanging out with other people grows with practice; it requires less energy if you do it regularly.

And much like physical exercise, *overtraining* probably puts you in a worse rut, so don't push it too hard too fast.
posted by talldean at 8:54 AM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Nonprofit or government job resources Portland OR   |   The thing that can't replace the thing Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.