From Introvert, Dear comes a rather amusing, yet strikingly true, article about what it feels like for people like us when we’re all peopled-out. We get sleepy, we become stupid, we space out, and we develop weird aches and pains – in other words, we basically become a very odd kind of drunk:
You spend all morning in a blanket fort, the thought of getting up just absolutely unbearable. You’re feeling drained, sort of like you’ve been through a washing machine, you’re grouchy, and maybe you’ve even snapped at someone important over practically nothing… Where did this feeling come from?
The “introvert hangover” is real, my friends. Real and terrible.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get an alarm installed that would start beeping every time you were near the low-battery, grouchy-must-sleep-please-leave-me-alone feeling?
“Well, it’s been fun hanging out with you, but I—” beep, beep “—I need to leave now.”
The cool thing is, though, your body likely does give you some cues that an introvert hangover, in all its horrors, is settling in. With practice, including mindfulness and giving yourself permission for alone time as self-care, learning to read your body’s cues about an introvert hangover can get easier.
The article goes on to list 9 signs that you’re basically done with people for the night. I have definitely gone through a couple of those stages myself. I remember with particular amusement one lunch with my family’s oldest friends, where my brain literally started shutting down and I began falling asleep at the table because I couldn’t deal with the constant barrage of verbiage coming my way.
Most of my readers are, of course, introverts, and quite a few of you lot are even more ornery and cranky than I am – which, trust me, is saying quite a lot. So you don’t need me to tell you what to do when your “people warning light” starts flashing. For those of you who are new or younger, though, understand that attempting to “push through” this zone of discomfort will have dire consequences later on.
When the full-blown “introvert shutdown” happens, you will not be able to recover quickly or easily without SERIOUS downtime. Recommend treatment in these situations include: lying sprawled across a couch listening to a good audiobook, playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at a tolerable and pleasant volume, sleeping outside in the long grass on a warm summer’s day, and sitting on a beach staring at the water.
Notice that ALL of these activities are solitary, and require almost zero physical activity. This is necessary and inevitable. Do not ignore the warning signs when they hit.
One additional word here about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, by the way – I used to be a big fan of MBTI tests, but as it happens, they actually do not have much rigour behind them. People like me consistently test the same way, repeatedly, which is good – but most people can “switch” between different categories fairly easily, depending on how they feel on any given day, and where they are in life.
It is also possible for introverts to “seem” more extroverted, given enough time, training, and psychotherapy. This is because some of the more negative traits associated with introversion can be sorted out through hard work. Social anxiety is not an issue for introverts alone – extroverts also have this – but you can remedy it over time, using deep-therapy methods. (These methods are not fun, by the way, and do not involve lying on some therapist’s couch, talking about your fee-fees.)
When you do this kind of therapy, you can become more outgoing and comfortable with other people, to the point where such people will assume that you are like them. But, if you are fundamentally introverted, that will not change.
Personally, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend undertaking such therapy, unless you have a specific aim in mind. Whenever I have seen people undertake that kind of therapy, it has definitely worked, but from what I have seen, those same people have not ended up more successful in their chosen fields of application.
Instead, I recommend pushing yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time, which results in a sort of mental resistance training. Doing this will make you get out of your own head for a while and engage with the world. But, understand that, just like any other form of exercise, this will tire you out, and you will need to rest and recharge.
I have had to do VASTLY more group-work than I am comfortable with, for going on 15 months now. I do not particularly enjoy it, even when conducting meetings and calls via Zoom or Teams, instead of in-person. But doing so has also made me considerably tougher and more resilient in the company of other people. I know how to manage my exposure to people, but I still force myself to go out and be around people from time to time.
Go you, therefore, and do the same – socialise in small doses, and get out when you need to.