It took me years to realise that I’m an introvert. I just assumed everyone felt exhausted after social events and faced them with high levels of anxiety. Even once I realised that I was an introvert in disguise, I struggled against my nature and tried to keep up with my extroverted friends. I would dread social events and struggle to find energy for the things I liked, and I couldn’t see a way out.
It’s taken a few years, but I’ve finally embraced my inner introvert. I am someone who prefers reading on the couch to going out. I am someone who gets overwhelmed by large social occasions. I’ve stopped trying to keep up with everyone else and began setting my own pace. I’ve picked up key habits and tricks to help me avoid overexerting myself socially, which allows me to do more and feel at peace.
I was once told that we need to treat ourselves as well as we treat other people. We should offer ourselves the same kindness we give to others, and in that respect, we should honour the same commitments. If you had plans to see a friend, you’d probably feel guilty about cancelling and avoid that at all costs. So why don’t you do the same for plans with yourself?
Instead of looking for alone time after you’ve made your schedule for the week and hoping there’s availability, make it happen. When you start scheduling your week or weekend, dedicate some time to being on your own and recharging. This can be time to go to the market, go for a walk, read or even binge your favourite TV show.
Once you’ve found your slot, treat it as you would plans with a friend and avoid cancelling at all costs. It can be tempting to offer all your available days when making plans, but do your best to avoid listing the time you’re hoping to keep as alone time. Only break into this if you really have no other choice.
Schedule it in your planner as you would commitments with a friend or an appointment.
By scheduling your time off, you make sure it happens, rather than leaving it up to fate and other people’s availability. You begin to respect your time off and treat it as valuable. This helps you to avoid being overwhelmed. Remember that weekends aren’t just for doing things and seeing people; they’re also about rest.
When it comes to making plans, it’s always worth considering what you’ll do. As lovely as it is to grab dinner or drinks with a friend, this can be a very socially taxing get together. It’s bound to involve a lot of direct communication, which can be fine for one evening but not several in a row.
Instead, consider how you can find time with the people you want to see that won’t drain you as heavily. A great way to manage this is with an activity-based meetup. For example, you could meet for dinner to catch up and then go to the cinema. You could go bowling or play minigolf. You could go for a walk or bike ride.
This may seem like a minor adjustment, but it can just provide a bit of purpose to your meeting and give outside stimulus to conversations. As an introvert, I find this reassuring as it doesn’t require as much communication effort on my part.
Consider what you’re doing for your social moments, and choose what works best for you. Avoid social situations that you’ll find taxing, and consider seeing people one-on-one instead.
Hobbies are an introvert’s best friend. They give you a chance to focus on something and exist in silence - unless your hobby is music-related! I find that hobbies help me to recharge so much as an introvert, as they allow me to be ‘mind off, hands on’ for a while.
But not only can hobbies help you to recharge, but they can help you to avoid social depletion preemptively. By committing to hobbies, you naturally carve out time for yourself. You dedicate your energy wisely and allow yourself to focus on one task. It also ensures you don’t spend your alone time scrolling endlessly through social media. A great recharging hobby is baking, as it also gives you something delicious to eat afterwards. I love to find new baking recipes on Hot Chocolate Hits.
As an introvert, my social battery runs out a lot quicker than my extroverted friends. So whilst I might be having a lot of fun one minute, the next minute, I could reach my threshold and shut down. I used to force myself past this limit and try to match my extroverted friends. I’d give in to the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and worry that I’d miss a good time.
But all that time past when I wanted to leave was never good. My heart wasn’t in it. My energy was gone, and so I was running through my reserves. The best times never happen during this period, as everyone is pushing themselves past their limits and forcing a good time.
I finally learned just to call it a night. To ignore my FOMO, to ignore the potential judgement, and just leave when I want to. This allows you to avoid complete depletion and get the rest you need to be decent the next day. It can feel unnatural at first, and you might even feel like you’re being rude, but it’s honestly understandable. Many people will wish they could just call it a night too.
I have a friend who even highlights when they’d like me to leave if I’m at their place. They say it super politely and just explain that they’d like to go to bed in an hour. My initial instinct was to feel offended, but then I realised that I was forcing this reaction, as internally, I was relieved. So even if you have people over, just mention casually that you’re hoping to get a good night’s rest. People will appreciate your honesty, and you’ll appreciate your new boundaries.
It can feel unnatural to listen in a conversation simply. We live in a loud, loud world where people are constantly fighting for attention. We’re taught to raise our voices to be heard, and so to actively choose to be silent can be daunting.
I used to worry that I wasn’t a good conversationalist if I wasn’t offering equal parts to the conversation, but now I think it makes me a better one. Because too often, we focus on what we’ll say next rather than what the other person is saying. We focus on our story more than their own, and it can make someone feel like they’re talking to a wall.
Next time you’re in a conversation, be an active listener. Don’t speak, don’t offer anecdotes from your life; just listen and show you’re listening. It can be refreshing for both parties.
It’s okay for one person to speak more in a conversation as long as you feel like you get the space when you want it. Conversations don’t have to be perfectly balanced as long as you’re happy with them.
Being a listener allows me to conserve energy and stay in social situations for longer.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to kick your partner or pup out of your bed!
It’s so easy to spend the last moments of your day scrolling on social media. I’m very guilty of watching an hour fly by on Tiktok. But being on social media or messaging a friend still counts as a social interaction. Instead, end your day by an alone activity.
For me, this is reading. The best habit I ever incorporated was reading right before I go to sleep, for a minimum of ten minutes. It’s a brilliant way to destress and prepare to fall asleep. It also allows me to read more, which is a win-win!
But if reading isn’t your cup of tea, then try finishing your day by listening to music or a guided meditation. Anything that doesn’t involve social energy on your part.
As an introvert, it’s still possible to excel in social situations and find joy in them; you just need to adapt the situation to your needs and prepare. Instead of trying to follow the extroverted crowd, work out what you need and make that happen. Pick up the introvert habits that allow you to find joy not fear in social moments, and ensure you leave them feeling satisfied rather than exhausted.
It’s trial-and-error, and sometimes we have to give more than we would like. So make sure to also take more if you ever need to. It’s time to ignore the social expectations of society and instead find our own way.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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