Social exhaustion can make you feel tired, dull, and irritated. Here’s how to manage and prevent it.

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Social interaction can fuel some people, especially extroverts. To introverts, the same level of social interaction can be draining instead.

While introverts can appreciate socializing, they invest a lot of energy trying to navigate socially demanding environments, leading to social exhaustion.

Social fatigue or social burnout happens when you’ve socialized to the point that you can’t do it anymore. Social exhaustion can also be called introvert burnout or introvert hangover. Although it’s not a medical diagnosis, it is a valid experience that introverts and extroverts can face.

It can be an emotional and physical response to social overstimulation that leaves you feeling drained and exhausted. You might feel physically tired, stressed, angry, or irritable. Social exhaustion can feel like hitting a wall.

You may feel as if you don’t have the energy to get out of bed, let alone be in a room with other people. In some ways, it feels as if you’re running on an empty gas tank, and the nearest gas station is hundreds of miles away.

Getting to the end of social exhaustion can feel like you’re on the brink of a breakdown. Social fatigue can happen to anyone, extroverts and introverts alike. But since our society emphasizes social interaction and stimulation, you may not recognize the signs until you’re in the middle of burnout.

Here are some common signs of social exhaustion:

  • detachment from other people
  • inability to focus
  • intense headaches or migraine attacks
  • low energy or fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • emotional meltdown
  • irritability
  • depression
  • anxiety

When introverts don’t get enough alone time, it’s easy for them to become overstimulated. Research estimates that social interactions extending over 3 hours can lead to post-socializing fatigue for some people.

Social exhaustion doesn’t happen overnight. Being mindful and in-tune with your mental health can help you recognize early signs and prevent burnout later.

Early signs of burnout include:

  • being unable to sleep
  • feeling mentally unwell
  • feeling overly reactive
  • having low energy
  • not performing at your best

Signs of being burned out include:

  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • losing motivation
  • feeling detached
  • feeling depressed
  • withdrawing

No matter your personal situation, there are some strategies that can help you avoid exhaustion. Keep in mind that these suggestions take time and practice. You need to pay close attention to how you tend to deal with overstimulation and feelings of burnout as you try different approaches.

Identify your main triggers

What triggers you might not trigger someone else. Take some time to identify situations and people that cause you to feel drained. Some common triggers for social exhaustion include:

  • feeling obligated to speak to a lot of people
  • attending family reunions and holiday parties
  • needing to socialize for work
  • attending large events
  • participating in group projects for a long time

Learn how to set boundaries

Even extroverts can feel tired if they cram their schedule with back-to-back social events. Learn how to say “no” to events that you know will be emotionally draining and “yes” to social events that you’ll genuinely enjoy.

It can help to make a conscious effort to accept invitations to events that have the most value to you. You can also consider setting limits on the amount of time you spend at a social event.

Schedule alone time

Whether you need to do this at work, school, or at home, set aside at least 10 to 30 minutes a day that are entirely yours.

You can use this alone time each day to recharge and reconnect with yourself. Knowing that you have this time can help you make it through unmanageable moments throughout the day and give you something to look forward to if you feel overwhelmed.

Recovering from social exhaustion is possible. If you ever feel burned out, these activities can help you restore your energy levels so that you can recover:

Reach out to someone

It might seem counterintuitive to speak with people when socializing is what triggered the burnout. But opening up about social exhaustion to a partner, family, friend, or a therapist can be beneficial.

Find someone who’s a good listener, who will listen without becoming distracted or expressing judgment. It can be refreshing to spend time with loved ones in a positive and enjoyable environment.

Try meditation

Many studies indicate that practicing mindfulness can help with anxiety. There’s evidence that transcendental meditation may have beneficial effects on anxiety.

Listening to relaxing sounds, spending time in nature, or deep breathing can also help you unwind and release buildup tension.

Practice self-care

Self-care can be different things for you. Listen to your body and do what feels best. Baking, cooking, listening to music, dancing, or exercising are all examples of self-care. Anything that can help soothe your fatigue and lower your stress levels could work.

Take time to reset

As much as in-person social engagements can be tiring, online socializing can be, too. We spend a lot of time on our phones.

Social media is overstimulating, and in one way or another, you’re still socializing with people. To recover from social burnout, consider taking a break from social media and spend some time with yourself.

Practice journaling

During this recovery period, try writing out your emotions. One study found that one month of journaling can result in fewer depressive symptoms and anxiety. Writing down how you feel can be a helpful and effective way to process your exhaustion.

Journaling is also another way to recognize situations and people that can trigger negative emotions. From time to time, go back through your journal and read through the pages to figure out those triggers and start planning strategies to prevent these from affecting you in the future.

If you’re experiencing severe social burnout, there are avenues to get help. Consider reaching out to a mental health professional to discuss your exhaustion. You can start your search for a therapist here on Psych Central.

Focus on self-care and relying on your network for personal support. While these can seem small steps, they can help you identify the cause of your social burnout and find practical solutions.