Introvert Burnout: 3 Sneaky Signs You Have it + How to Avoid It

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Today I’m feeling totally and utterly depleted. It’s one of those days where I want to curl up into a ball for 10 hours and be fed through an IV. In other words, I’m teetering the very fine line between low introvert energy and full-on burnout.

We’ve all been there. Introverted people, especially, are susceptible to burning out. This is because most introverts are also very creative,  highly sensitive, and cerebral. In other words, all the things that make us brilliant also make us more prone to feeling overwhelmed and depleted.

Mental exhaustion is a real threat for us introverted people. Our mind is easily over-stimulated because we process more information in a given situation. We also tend to have highly active minds that are constantly at work. Our brain is a buzzing metropolis of thoughts, ideas and dreams.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy for us to start overthinking, obsessing and generally driving ourselves mad. Before we know it, our buzzing metropolis turns into a grey zombie land and we start to feel like the walking dead.

The good news is that full-on burnout can be avoided. The first step is to look for the signs.

3 Sneaky Signs of Burnout

1. You feel sad for no particular reason. Life looses its luster and you can’t remember the last time you smiled. Burnout and depression are longtime buddies.

2. You feel tired no matter how much sleep you get. You’re like a deflated balloon being dragged along by the memory of life.

3. You develop a hunger for human flesh.

Oh wait – sorry – that is a sign that you are becoming a zombie. What I meant to say is that you constantly feel on edge, like at any moment you could lose your temper or burst into tears (personally, I’m a burst into tears kinda gal).

So, now that we know the signs, how do we avoid entering the zombie-like state of complete burnout? Here are 5 tips that really work:

5 Tips To Avoid Introvert Burnout

1. Know when it’s time to go out

Too much time alone with our ever-buzzing brains can lead to burnout. We need less social interaction than extroverts, but we still need to meet with other humans on occasion.

2. Use the ebb and flow of introvert energy to your advantage

Life is full of times when we have to hustle, work extra hours and get shi* done. But then there are other times when we can afford to slack off a little. For introverted people, it’s especially important that we use those slow periods to restore our energy.

Ride the wave of madness for as long as you absolutely must and then put your floaties on and relax for a while.

3. Do things faster and then bugger off

Many of us innies prefer to work at a slower pace. And that’s just fine. Working slowly, but consistently is the key to long-term success. EXCEPT when we are wasting time and energy on unnecessary tasks.

Instead of giving yourself the whole day to work on a project (while checking Facebook, reading emails, and doing “research” a thousand times in between) give yourself three hours with zero distractions. Get her done and then get out of there.

4. Know when to inhale

There is a writer’s saying: “writing is the exhale, reading is the inhale.”

This same analogy can be applied to any kind of project-based or creative work. We can’t just be producers. We need to consume as well.

We need to take time to “inhale” information. Some of us have a habit of holding our breath.

When you start to feel burnout setting in, but still want to be productive, give yourself an inhale day. Sometimes the inhale looks different than we expect. It could be going for a walk, observing people, reading great fiction or chatting with like-minded people.

5. Know that done is better than perfect

This one is for all of the perfectionist introverted people out there (there are a lot of us). I know that you take pride in your work and you want to get it just right, BUT done is better than perfect. Sometimes good enough is the aim. Getting your projects out into the world is more important than making sure everything is just so.

Whatever you’re working on, make it beautiful, inspiring, transformative, incredibly useful, but DO NOT try to make it perfect. Set a deadline, get it done and move on.

Has anyone else out there suffered from introvert burnout? Do you have any tips to add to the list?

By the way, if you’re wondering why I’m feeling frazzled at the moment, It’s because I’ve been working my buns off to create more useful introvert resources for all my innie peeps out there. One of which will go live later today:

New free introvert ebook

100 Introvert Questions: Answers to everything you want to know in 20 words or less. Subscribe to my mailing list (see below) to get your FREE copy.

New introvert blog posts five day a week

I’m in the middle of my 30-day writing challenge, so expect to see new blog posts here almost everyday of the week. On Sundays I send a newsletter/love letter to my loyal subscribers.

Whew, okay, that’s all for now. Time to bugger off, put my floaties on, and breath for a little while. 😉

XO,

Michaela Signature

36 Comments

  1. Oh boy, that’s me. I have been feeling it, and I realise now that it’s real. I’m not a total drama queen, there is substance to this. (And yes, a smidgeon of drama queen too, but not totally).
    *shuts of laptop and turns off lights*

    Reply
    • Haha, thanks for your comment, Maria. It made me smile. It’s amazing what simply closing your laptop can do! 🙂

      Reply
      • Question I find myself to be a introvert but also a extrovert sounds weird I know. But it’s tough. Upbeat full of vigor, bam quiet, always helpful but no pluse what so ever. People can t figure me out

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        • I’m the same way, it just depends on how much energy/patience I have to share with others I guess.

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  2. I have enjoyed the tips, except the first one. Meet with another human? Oh, man… can’t we replace it by playing with cats?

    Oh, and greetings from Brazil!

    Reply
    • Haha, thanks Cesar. Sure, if that works for you, replace it with cats by all means! 😉 Greetings from Seattle, USA.

      Reply
  3. Great post, Michaela! I especially like your third suggestion. I think that going slow in the way that you described is tempting, but it can be a huge energy suck that sneaks up on you.

    In addition to burning out in the examples you gave, I tend to experience burn out more from social or group events, especially when I’ve scheduled more than two group activities during the week (it doesn’t take much). It took me a while to even realize why I would react that way (for a while I didn’t love being introverted), but once I understood and embraced it, I was able to notice how a certain type of schedule would affect me and then plan for lots of solo recharge time afterwards and on some occasions say “No” to events when I knew I was in need of alone time to recharge.

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    • Thanks Varonica! Great insights. I also can only handle two group activities during the week. More than that and I start to feel cranky and exhausted.

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  4. “Instead of giving yourself the whole day to work on a project (while checking Facebook, reading emails, and doing “research” a thousand times in between)”

    HAHA that’s me everyday! It’s almost like an itch that needs to be scratched while working on something.

    Another fine post Michaela!

    Reply
    • Now go take a break! 😉

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    • Thanks, Kenn! Yes, I think we all do it. It really is like an itch that we want scratch more and more.

      Reply
  5. I came across your blog yesterday and I am SO glad I did!! This is the first post I’ve read and if they’re all like this, I’m going to have a lot of fun here.

    Just signed up for your mailing list, so can’t wait to read your newest e-book!

    I took an Inhale Day this week on Tuesday. I returned Monday at midnight from a weekend trip to FL to visit my sister and newborn niece. Even though I had Mount Email staring me in the face, I made the conscious decision to NOT start working right away on Tuesday morning, but give myself the day to sleep in, relax, do laundry, tidy up my house, and all in all recover from the busy weekend and two full travel days. It was the best permission I gave myself this week.

    Also, love the Done is Better than Perfect concept. I’ve heard it come up a lot lately, must be meant for me, the introverted perfectionist to hear and take to heart!

    Thanks for the great read!

    Reply
    • Hi Laura, Welcome! I’m so happy you found my site and that my posts resonate with you. Good for you for taking an inhale day and ignoring Mount Email for a little while.

      “Done is better than perfect” is something I have to tell myself almost everyday! 🙂

      Reply
  6. I get this ALL the time. Once I start burning out I can overthink myself and attempt to plan myself out of it, which actually makes things worse. I wrote a blog post a while back on a similar thing – the ‘Social Hangover’ – the hangover after prolonged social time. I realised I would make impactful longterm decisions under the influence of that fleeting, short term discomfort when I just need to re-energise and be.

    This is a big issue, especially when we don’t actually REALISE that this is an important part of our day-to-day functioning. We have potential to really sabotage our own longterm work.

    Great article. Thanks.

    Here’s the social hangover one: http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/social-hangover/

    Reply
    • Thanks for your thoughts on this, Andy! Indeed, sometimes trying to ‘plan oursevles out of it’ just makes it worse.

      Reply
  7. It looks like we are in the same mode! I just wrote a post about introvert exhaustion.
    I love the inhale/exhale analogy. It is so true!! Stephen King said, In order to write a lot, you have to read a lot. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Brenda! I just hopped over to your blog and read the post. We are indeed in the same boat (though I’m feeling much better now). I love this line about dark chocolate: “I used to eat two squares in the afternoon as a pick-me-up. I now snort a square or four as early as 10 in the morning. I have a problem.” Haha, I used to be a dark chocolate “junkie”, too. 😉

      For anyone who’s interested, you can read Brenda’s post on introvert exhaustion here.

      Reply
  8. Just want to say, this is the first blog I have actually read almost all the posts in thanks!

    Now as to this post, I get this a lot and am actually going through it right now. I find when working on the same project for too long does this to me (as of now I am going on three months on the same project) and managing a crew of six (including myself).

    Your tips are good, and I will look at trying to follow them my next set of days off. But I do find that I just require more time alone to just do absolutely nothing solves the issue, although doing that leaves things in a mess as nothing gets done when I am home lol.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome! I’m honored that you’ve read almost all the posts. I find working on the same project for too long excruciating, too. You must be feeling totally zapped of energy.

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  9. Such an interesting blog! I recognize myself in all the qualities of introverts described in the blog and the comments. But I was surprised to see that also other introverts find working on the same project boring/tiring/exhausting after a while… I thought patience was ‘one’ of our virtues? But I have the same feeling… I love to start projects, a new job…but to keep at them more than a couple of years is difficult. Could you explain this contradiction in ‘our’ personalities?

    Reply
    • Hi Fatima, thanks for your comment. I’m happy that you’ve joined my little introvert community. I can’t say for sure, but I think that intense focus on the same project for a long time is difficult for both introverts and extroverts. I think it has more to do with creativity and work habits than introversion/extroversion. I’ve heard a lot of creatives say that they prefer to dive into the madness and get stuff done fast rather than use the “chip away” method.

      Reply
  10. Last year I was working Ina. Highly demanding medical receptionist position, which required me to be out of my personal comfort zone all the time. I was so close to burn out it wasn’t funny. In the past seven months while recovering I have also learned that I am anaemic, have low calcium and b12 which with all three a symptom is low energy. So whether an I/E it may be medical. I know when I’m wiped out, but not being refreshed after a good sleep (or three) or having no oomph what so ever, this leans toward low iron levels rather than introversion recovery. I know when I’m tired I don’t eat well and en my levels drop, which makes everything worse. Hen I just want to hibernate permanently. 🙂

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  11. In October 2013, my 18-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. My husband and I spent the winter days at the Cancer Center as our son went through chemo and then we spent nights helping him through the nausea. We spent a week at a hospital as he had major surgery to remove a cancerous lymph node. We went through this experience with courage and humor and faith. However, by the end of it all, we were utterly depleted, exhausted, overwhelmed. At this time, a friend told me that I needed to speak up more, I think too much, etc.–in other words, I needed to be more extroverted. I told her that I was exhausted and overwhelmed and this was not the time to give me self-improvement tips. She got hurt and refused to speak to me. This depleted me further since I am very empath/HSP. In all, it’s been a very rough year. Now it’s October 2014 and my family still is utterly depleted and trying to recover. I felt like we went into complete burn out. I’m assuming some day we will regain our energy?

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing your story. I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through something like that. Experiencing all those painful emotions is incredibly draining for anyone. As an empath/HSP I’m sure you are really feeling things both mentally and physically. It’s unfortunate that your friend wasn’t able to understand your needs. Of course, it is possible to regain your energy. When dealing with such a tough situation as yours, it’s important to heal on a deeper level so that you can stop leaking energy through your stored emotions. Energy alchemist, Alexa Linton and I talked about this during Introvert Talk Sunday last week. Maybe you will find it helpful: http://introvertspring.com/introvert-talk-enery-alchemy/ xo

      Reply
  12. Great article. Thanks. My problem is I get very drained and exhausted along with tight back muscles (fatigue??) when I talk for a long time. Can be one on one with someone about topics I’m very passionate about. I’ve been off work for a few weeks and been feeling great but Last night I spent an hour on the phone with a mate discussing things were both interested in. Afterwards I noticed I was so fatigued and the next day it’s still here. I tried to meditate and I couldn’t even shake it. I’m going to pay close attention next time to my breathing and make sure I’m breathing in through my nose between sentences and exhale when speaking. Come to think of it I think My breathing goes all out when researching on the internet and even typing this comment.

    Reply
  13. Hi, i have dyspraxia and anxiery disorder. I am married with two great kids. Ive recently made friends at nearly 30 ooops theres a group of us and its great for my kids,cause the others have children the same age. Its great for my hubby hes an extrovert. I keep doing new things all the time. Keep seeing our friends a lot of social interaction. It was difficult at first,thought id be able to do this be normal. Have friends,family. Go loads of places but 6 months of doing this im worn out,feel trapped i need some space like a few weeks. I feel tired,no energy and i dont want to go out. I dont want to disapoint people but i certainly feel a burnout coming on. I could easily not socialise. Im probably too much of an introvert but know i cant carry on this way forever. I feel like i want to go bed for a month and go back to having playdates for my boys but leaving the socialising well alone xxx

    Reply
  14. Amazing article Michaela! Thank you for it. I just rrcently discovered that im an introvert… And once i did everything in my life up to now makes so much sense. So ever since i found out ive been reading and listening (audio books) to everything i can about this. Yesterday was my lil brothers wedding and what do u know lol i feel super burnt out today. So what am i doing? Staying to myself today in my apartment, and cleaning. Cleaning calms me down and helps me recharge beleive it ot not. Again thanks a million for this article. All the best! – Layra <3

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Layra. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. 🙂

      Reply
  15. I am lying on my bed depleted with a bout of shingles. I am an all or nothing perfectionist inni. I used my sick day to do some real soul searching and giving myself some space to inhale a little. Thank you for this article. It really helped.

    Reply
  16. Me in a nutshell!
    Wish I’d found this post for like two and a half years ago, but then I had no idea that I’m an introvert (INFJ) nor did I know that introversion even was a thing, so… better late than never, huh? 🙂 Thanks for all the good tips! This week I’ve been struggling with a real social hang-over, last weekend was filled with wonderful but oh so extroverted people and it took every last bit of my energy… I just love to “inhale” all the good articles you have here!
    Love, Cornelia

    Reply
  17. I love your blog 🙂 thanks for sharing, i’m an introvert/empath but i like to be social and my boyfriend is more confident than me. we both have fear of missing out but my energy gets drained if i don’t get alone time. I am self concious too so i struggle inwardly alot but i don’t want anyone to worry so i always have a smile 🙂

    Reply
  18. Good to know im not only the single sufferer of intoversive impunity.

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  19. I’ve been through introvert burnout many times in my life and it’s good to know that I’m not the only one. These tips are much needed and appreciated. Great post, thank you!

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  20. Dear Michaela,

    I do. Drop in to your site from time to time as your tips are really great and it helps to refocus when I have been sucked down the dark exhaustion path.

    I was always a “quiet” child and my twin sister the ” happy busy ” one. Over time e I learnt to “fit in ” to the loud extrovert world but am really at peace when out working in nature or with music etc.

    I put myself in a demanding job ( firefighter) and yet loved it as I could work like crazy when on duty but then was totally free off duty. Sadly promotion meant less freedom and finally I ended up being in charge of a huge Trainjg school. It was demanding and eventually I got cancer.

    Big game changer when you have a few months …. Long story short, Ihad survey which went wrong so have a badly messed up body and the hemp did not agree with me so I took matters into my own hands and followed a different route. 10 years and I am still here.

    I have learnt that I can be happy and healthy if I play carefully within my body’s limitations. I eat organic and well, excercize gently and in nature, do some social like tennis and am generally happy and healthy.

    The problems start with my very social husband who forever wants to be socially busy and active and ropes me in to all these functions. Now I have learnt to say no. In fact we have moved to a small village I. france and when I joined a group for pétanque I told the group that I would play on occasion and that I would not attend many, if any social gatherings. She was horrified and said that surely I did not mean that. I had to earnestly sit her down and explain how I am. Now they now. No apologies.

    It’s alittle hard for my husband who would prefer I join him but. He has seen what too much social does to my battery and to my wellbeing so he has learnt to let me be.

    But I still end up,falling down a dark hole by saying yes when I really should stay home. I find these endless lunches8 hrs yesterday after I cooked and fed 10 people on Friday! Was just too much. I was actually sick as a dog today and could not get up. I had no time to study for my using theory exam and that. Ames me resentful. I get so tired that I see lips moving but do not hear words nor can I string a sentence together. Oh the hiding in the bathroom ……the please leave me alone today……..

    Your lovely article helps me focus and feel normal.

    I sure wish I could explain that hit the fatigue wall feeling for as you know it is awful and takes a few days for recover.

    Reply
    • Hi Natasha. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Of course, I know what that ‘hit the wall’ feeling is like. And I know that this time of year is when we are most susceptible to it. So happy to hear that you took your mental and physical health into your own hands and you are still here! Keep being kind to yourself, love. 🙂 xo

      Reply
  21. Its so weird.. I tend to not refuse my friends when they want to hang out because I keep to myself, but in the minute times that I do hang out with them I end up just getting massively depressed afterwards. I’m at a juncture in my life where each of my childhood/teenager friends are at different stages of adulthood that the only time we really see each other is when we socially drink. I feel like i’ve outgrown most of them though. Every-time we hang out, I always have an eerie sense that something is off. I’ve taken the steps to gaining the momentum I need in leaving this environment for greener pastures, but something inside also tells me that I’ll never be able to gain those types of friendships anymore…

    Reply

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