You’ve had a hectic week: assignments have been due in, you’ve dedicated a lot of time to that personal project you’ve been working on, work has been challenging, you’ve run all of your errands, cleaned the house, maybe you’ve even done some exercise. By the end of all this, your energy levels are running low. It hits Saturday night, and a group of friends invite you out for drinks. What do you do?
For an extrovert, someone who feels energised and at-home when socialising, the answer might be simple. Having a few drinks with friends will help you unwind, you’ll feel refreshed, happy, and the social interaction and change of activity will renew your energy for whatever you have organised for the next week.
For an introvert, for whom social interaction can often be draining and over-stimulating, it’s not so easy. For you, going for drinks after the week you’ve had probably doesn’t sound so relaxing. While you’d love the chance to catch up with your friends and usually enjoy the conversation, there’s a part of you that’s just longing to curl up with a cup of decaffeinated tea and watch the latest Netflix series, or finish that book you’ve been neglecting for the last week. You know that the night out might be fun, but you also know that it will leave you feeling even more drained than you already feel, and if you keep going at this pace without taking some time to yourself, you’ll burn out. This is the busy introvert’s dilemma. Socialising can be hard work too.
Sometimes, you’ll socialise anyway. Sometimes you’ll be glad you socialised even though you didn’t feel you had the energy, you’ll have a great time, and maybe it won’t even be as tiring as you expected. But other times you’ll push yourself to go, and you’ll just sit there, with loud voices and music pushing down on you, and you’ll spend the entire night wishing you had stayed at home.
But it’s hard to say no, because other people assume that meeting up with friends is relaxing for everyone. It’s hard to say no, because we’ve all encountered at least one person who has judged someone else for saying no, who has called someone else “antisocial”, or used the phrase, “it’s a shame they’re so shy”.
It’s also hard to say no when you know that this happens a lot, or you feel that the event is particularly important. You might be part of a group of friends who like to spend time together every two days, or you might be new to an area and not want to miss out on anything, or give the first impression of being “antisocial”. You don’t want to be the friend who is always “too busy” or “too tired” to hang out.
Sometimes there are so many things that require your energy, that there’s hardly any left for socialising, and this is such a frustrating feeling to have when you want to spend time with friends, but you know that you can’t afford the energy right now.
Of course, there are ways to get around this. Maybe next week is less busy, and you can promise your friends that you will see them then. Maybe you’ve taken on too many projects, and you can scale something back, at least temporarily, to give yourself the energy to be social. Maybe your friends are actually demanding a lot of you, and you can scale back your interactions: suggest meeting up one lunchtime, in a quiet cafe for an hour, rather than spending an entire evening at a busy bar. Then every time you want to turn down an invitation, make sure you ask yourself why you want to say no: are you going to spend time recharging, or are you just trying to avoid leaving your comfort zone?
And if the answer is that you just need to take a break, it’s ok to give yourself the night off – and by that, I mean really take a night off. Eat takeaway food, watch your favourite film, read 20 pages of your book: do the things that really relax you, not the things that other people assume will relax you. It’s ok if your idea of celebrating the end of a busy week is spending an evening alone with a good book or a video game.
And if all else fails, there’s this handy flowchart.
Featured Image: Riskology