Have you ever felt so overwhelmed while socializing that you just wanted to run and hide? A lot of introverts struggle with social overwhelm, especially during this time of year when there is so much going on. Trust me when I say that I am painfully familiar with this common introvert problem. Case in point:
It was Canada Day recently, the biggest day of the year here in Ottawa (the capital of Canada). It is a day when people crowd the streets, beer in hand, as they head off to fireworks and parties.
If you’re from a country that has a similar tradition, you probably know how much introverts can struggle during these celebrations. They combine a lot of the things that make introverts want to withdraw: crowds, loud noises, small talk, marathon socializing.
With back-to-back social events, the day seems never-ending. Many people go from barbecues, to concerts, to pubs, to house parties.
If you’re like me, you start to get irritable when you have more than one social activity in a day. Especially if you have no rest time in between.
Social overwhelm leaves you in a vulnerable state…
- you are easily annoyed and cranky
- you feel guilty for being irritable, which makes things worse
- you start to overthink things and get down on yourself
- you can no longer be ‘on’ and so you start to zone out
- you find it impossible to endure one more second of small talk
I experienced all of the above at various points on Canada Day. I had to keep reminding myself of my own advice.
Understand where you shine.
I can’t tell you how much easier my life would have been had I known this in my teens and early twenties. Introverts don’t necessarily shine at drunken house parties and crowded festivals.
Don’t be hard on yourself for feeling out of place in environments that were practically designed to aggravate an introvert. Find places where you blossom.
Give yourself a break.
I mean this both literally and figuratively. Most introverts genuinely want to do the right thing and be a good person. Unfortunately, society told you that the right way is the extrovert’s way. It’s not!
Don’t be so hard on yourself for struggling with social overwhelm. While you’re at it, take a moment to reset and refresh by escaping for a walk or a bathroom break.
On Canada Day, one of the events I went to was my niece’s baptism at a Mormon church. I think most religious innies will relate when I say that church socials are insanely draining for introverts.
I coped by escaping at various points to wander the halls and pretend to read the church bulletin board. Later in the day, when I found myself at a wild house party, I did my best to connect and have fun, but threw in the towel when I realized that everyone was too drunk to have a real conversation. It’s okay to leave early!
By the way, if you want to know how to truly connect with the right people, be sure to download my free Introvert Connection Guide.
What about you?
How do you cope with social overwhelm? Can you relate to my Canada Day experiences? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below. 🙂
Like you, I cope with being socially overwhelmed by granting myself permission to take frequent “recharge” breaks or leave the event early. I’ll even take the following day off completely and hole up in my apartment if need be.
Interestingly enough, I recently attended two events that left me reeling from “social overwhelm.” One situation I absolutely loathed having to experience while the other I can’t wait to do again.
The event I hated was my company’s annual summer party which was thrown a couple of weeks ago. It took place on a Thursday and they gave us the afternoon off so all employees could attend. The festivities included overcooked burgers, alcohol, games, a DJ playing loud music and people attempting to make small talk by shouting over said loud music. They didn’t event bother to use any insect deterrents so bugs were all over the food. I lasted about forty minutes before I became irritated and overwhelmed by the situation. I went back inside and returned to my desk where it was quiet. I spent the remainder of the afternoon just daydreaming in an attempt to recuperate. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough as I was still grumpy the following day, vowing to not attend next year. Luckily, it was a Friday so I was able to have the entire weekend to myself.
Conversely, this past March I got together with a good friend (whom I hadn’t seen in a while) on a Saturday for dinner and a concert. While this night left me feeling overwhelmed, it was totally worth it During dinner, we had a wonderfully deep conversation as we caught up and discussed our feelings on a variety of topics. We dined at a restaurant that served excellent food and the concert was phenomenal. It was a tribute to Eric Clapton and the band performing did some amazing renditions of his music. However after the show with my ears ringing, I was beginning to feel the effects of being over my social limit. I said farewell to my friend, immediately went home and passed out. I woke up the next morning with a headache as well as other aches and pains. I hadn’t consumed a drop of alcohol the night before so I knew these were the symptoms of what I call a “social hangover.” I spent the day reading, Netflixing and napping. Honestly, it was a perfect weekend.
Isn’t it fascinating how different ingredients can make or break a social gathering?
Have you noticed yet, the prescription for how to have “fun” at these events? Not increase your IQ, no, have more alcohol. Yes, the dumber you are the more “fun” you will have. This is what life is all about.
Eat more animal protein, drink more garbage alcohol, more toxins and converse on the stupidest topics you can think of. Laugh lots and are we having fun yet?
It is always to bring one down to a level of stupidity so you can “feel” you are connecting. Get all hot, muggy, huggy and sweaty. Oh what a great time it is to spend with everyone, not!
I can take people in doses and feel I am a “feral” human. Keep your distance from me and if you need me to eat or drink something to “fit in” with you, then I will not fit in.
I love my “me” time the most and should be spending even more meditating, playing an instrument, gardening, cooking or some other hobby.
Most, if not all people should be entertained and around others in doses. The smaller the dose the better and I would rather spend my time with animals than most “humans”. No matter how nice they are, I can only handle doses of being around them.
If I had a choice of solitary confinement or a big party, I would go solitary. Guess this is why “time outs” work. We need more time outs, I love them!
I can totally relate to this. I have had so many parties recently that i felt so tired just the thought of it. Now, all i want to do is just go somewhere far, sit with my thoughts and reboot. I don’t even feel like talking to anyone anymore at this time, even my boss. ?
I was at one of my nephew birthday party and when I didn’t feel like talking. I ended up on my phone or I was trying to find a conversation to jump into or either find someone to talk to. So this article helps me alot for any large event thank you.
My boys go to a school where parents for a particular graduation year will have parties. We have an 8th grader (class of 2023) and a sophomore (class of 2021). We attended the 2023 party at the last minute. We decided to go because it was close to our house (we’d be home at a decent hour) and since this was our son’s first year at the school we thought we should meet some new parents. I had a great time. The mom’s were very friendly (not just pleasant or polite) and fun. We hadn’t planned on staying very long and ended up staying past the end time. I was energized by it rather than depleted, but I WAS tired the next day.
The following week we attended the class of 2021 parent party. I was particularly looking forward to this party because I already knew some of the moms who were attending. The evening was a disaster and by 8:00 I wanted to go home, hide in the bathroom or go sit in my car. I was uncomfortable going to up to groups who were already in the middle of a conversation and I felt awkward that moms I knew barely said hi to me, much less talked to me. I was almost in tears by the time we left.
I have been puzzling over these two scenarios for weeks; trying to figure out the difference. I think I got my answer the other night. I had another social event with the moms club for the school–yes, it sounds like an introvert nightmare with so many socials, but they are spread out enough. At the dinner I attended, we were grouped by class. Since I have a Sophomore and a middle schooler, I had my choice of sitting with the Sophomore moms or the middle school moms. I chose the middle school moms and ended up sitting with two who were at the party I attended a couple months ago. Again, I enjoyed myself. I realized that the 2021 moms are quite clique-ish and not as friendly. I have resigned myself to save my energy and not socialize as much with them.
My wife and I work together very comfortably in the music industry worldwide. I always thought I was just socially inept due to thousands of hours of solitude growth and discovery practice. Yet, I’m comfortable teaching an 8 hour master lesson. After discovering this website I shared it with my wife. Together we shared a big “aha! “That explains so much” moment. Originally we blamed our lack of desire to party with other movers and shakers to our weariness from all of our arduous travel. We’re certainly tired after travels and just enjoy not moving, at all, staying indoors the comfort of our home. We too wish we’d coined ourselves as introverts in our 20’s. My wife and I prefer being with 1 or 2 couples at a time, usually in our own home. We can focus on our guests genuinely. Someone recently asked what I value. I said, “relevant conversation.” Pleasantries usually last too long and politeness becomes fake really fast for me. Brown nosing drives me crazy and tests my patience to the point of my having to retreat. Sadly, sometimes I just walk away unannounced. My wife and I found a vacation rental on a private island with limited access via a prearranged boat. We were both excited ad have put the location on our bucket list destinations. Romantically, I find myself creating spontaneous dates at home for silly reasons i.e. “It’s Thursday!” Thanks you for your insight and ability to express what we’ve felt for decades. Above all… I wish you Peace.