With the global pandemic still at large, as the Delta variant sparks a new cause for concern, social distancing and quarantines are still the primary solutions apart from vaccinations to keep the COVID-19 numbers down.
The global pandemic started nearly two years ago, and Australians have been quarantining for about the same amount of time.
It might not be so bad for introverts since the changes they’ve had to go through are minimal, but there is still debate about whether they have “fared better.”
After all, wouldn’t we still appreciate the option to choose to lay on the couch multiple days in a row and catch up on Netflix rather than having it mandated?
On the other hand, Extroverts needed a lot of adjustment, as having plenty of alone time is a foreign concept.
It seems there has been some difficulty adjusting to life after lockdown wherever you sit on the spectrum.
With the extension of lockdowns and restrictions, many are acclimatising to and some even embracing a socially distanced lifestyle.
Experts have argued that the nature of work and the workplace has changed forever and that we should no longer expect employers to come into the office if they can be just as productive in their own environment.
In fact, new data shows that 20% of the global workforce could work from home 3-to-5 days a week.
Something people experience when it’s their first time going out after extended periods in isolation is that everything seems unfamiliar. It’s not unusual for us to feel like we’ve forgotten how to socialise.
This phenomenon has been dubbed the “social hangover.”
What’s a social hangover?
Aside from the awkward sensation those of us with introversion go through when hanging out with our friends or family for the first time after lockdown, a sense of exhaustion can also follow when experiencing a social hangover.
Regardless of if you’re a natural extrovert or an introvert, you can be susceptible to a feeling of depletion after a taste of the social interaction that you went without for a long time.
Even if you used to enjoy socialising, it could still happen to you, but it’s not something you need to be worried about. 🙇♀️
Think of it like hitting the gym after months or years without any physical activity or exercise; your body would be in shock and likely, sore the next few days.
That’s what it’s like for our social skills; even small talks may seem like a heavy burden while you’re warming up.
Why do we experience social hangovers?
Enjoying the downtime
With the hustle and bustle of juggling life, family, and careers, it’s not unusual that we feel like we need plenty of alone time. Despite the obvious downsides, the quarantine has been a godsend for those who needed a break.
Our fast-paced lives have started to slow down; we stopped losing hours of the day in rush hour traffic and on commutes — leaving us with A LOT of time for self-discovery and self-love.
Extroverts have learned to appreciate the solace and quiet time after being isolated for a year and a half. 🧘
It’s not surprising either, consider Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses. Affecting 1 in 4 Australians at some stage in their life; that’s over 2 million of us in a given year! (So you’re not alone.)
On top of the factor of burnout contributing to anxiety, research shows that Australian women were more likely to do unpaid work during the Covid recession; and are also expected to pick up more of the housework and homeschooling duties.
Becoming attuned to the people we live with
When you live with a roommate, a partner, friends, or family, chances are, you’ve gotten accustomed to interacting with the same group of people. Being in different social situations with other people has become a foreign experience.
Feeling like we forgot how to socialise
There’s no use blaming anyone if they feel like they’ve forgotten the ins and outs of socialising with different groups of people.
Socialising is a skill that takes practice. So, don’t worry, it will come back after a while, and we might even learn to appreciate the discussions we have with our friends and loved ones even more.
How to get over social hangovers
So, you went to a social event or gathering, and you’re feeling the introvert hangover.
What should you do? How can you get over the setback and manage future social interactions?
Although it would be naive to think that we’ll ever be back to “normal”, whatever that means… we’ve come up with a few tips to get you started when approaching a social situation.
Hopefully, to bring you some semblance of your pre-pandemic life.
Ease yourself into it
You don’t have to force yourself into social interactions with large groups right off the bat. Instead, we recommend that you only meet a few people at a time, preferably those in your closest circle, since they’re the ones who are likely to make you feel comfortable.
If you wish to be in larger groups, plan ahead to prepare mentally for being around more people, as this can cause a feeling of overstimulation.
So, don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get back in the swing of things straight away, as you can argue that we have all changed fundamentally as people post-isolation.
Give yourself time to recharge
We can’t stress enough how vital recharge time is! Just like sleeping the whole day when you feel hungover after a night of binge drinking, it’s likelythat you will feel drained after socialising and need to take a break the rest of the day.
Take some time off to recharge and spend time alone. Introverts have been using this method for the longest time. After going to a party or meeting up for drinks, they take a break afterwards to avoid burnout.
Block out toxicity
Toxicity from anyone is the last thing you need right now. Emerging from quarantine means that it’s time for us to practice self-care: this means taking the time to appreciate the friendships we took for granted before and to remove any negative energy that may trigger social anxiety.
It’s a perfect time for us to take care of our mental health and our general well-being.
If you go out to meet people and feel any discomfort, don’t hesitate to reassess the relationship if need be.
There’s no room for negativity when the world has gone through SO MUCH. And, we’re all in the process of overcoming our anxieties around socialising.
Focus on the activities you’ve learned to love
Many of us picked up a new hobby, skill, or interest during our time at home. Whether it’s knitting, playing an instrument or crafts (pottery wheels, anyone???) — there are many things we never knew we’d be passionate about had it not been for our time away from people.
Whenever you feel burned out or rundown, go back to your new hobby and distract yourself from the outside world.
Engaging in a hobby is a good activity not only for recharging, but it’s also linked with “mindfulness”, a state conducive to less anxiety, less rumination and overall better emotional regulation skills.
Plan around it
One way to manage burnout from social interaction is to plan your activities in advance.
Going back to the workout analogy, wherein you could schedule a full body massage the day after a workout to prevent your body from feeling sore — you could also plan a day for self-care after attending a social gathering with friends or acquaintances!
Get your candles prepped, and ensure the atmosphere is perfect for an afternoon soaking in the tub. That actually sounds like a stellar use of time. (We might have to clear the rest of today’s schedule…)
You’ll be fine
Social hangovers are a normal part of life, and it’s something that many of us have experienced due to the lockdowns of the past 18+ months.
Just make sure to acknowledge your emotions rather than pushing them away, and if you think you need help, don’t be afraid to seek it from your close contacts or mental health professionals.
You’ve got this. Go forth and prosper! 👌