I’ve had too much. I know better. I got caught up in the fun—the laughter and conversation, lights and music, the unusual feeling of hanging out somewhere “cool” on a Friday night. I wake with my head throbbing, body aching, and a deep desire to bury myself back under the covers.
No, I’m not recovering from living wild or drinking whiskey. I’m recovering from peopling (yes, that’s a verb in the introvert world). I’m in serious energy debt. Or, another way to say it, I have a full-on, shut-the-blinds-bring-me-strong-coffee introvert hangover.
I discovered this term—introvert hangover—when I went searching for why I sometimes felt so awful after doing something social. Not just parties but retreats, conferences, holiday gatherings, long days of meetings. Places where I either felt tempted to overindulge in socializing or couldn’t escape when I needed a break. Either way, the consequences remained the same. I made it through the day, but, whew, I paid for it later.
Why does this sometimes happen to us? The short version: introverts feel best from the neurotransmitter acetylcholine rather than from dopamine. But social events flood our brains with dopamine. We’re “dopamine drunk,” living like teenagers on spring break, all enthusiasm and no evaluation of the long-term consequences.
7 Signs of an Introvert Hangover (and, yes, this is intended to be funny not factual)
1) You feel done with all people, everywhere, forever and ever, amen. Yes, including the ones you adore. This makes you feel like a horrible person. Why flee your beloved family and closest friends? Because you have an introvert hangover. Remember this: It’s not about people. It’s about your nervous system being overloaded by external stimulation. And people, including the most wonderful ones, are very stimulating.
2) When someone tries to talk to you, it’s hard to focus or form complete sentences. When asked your name, you reply, “Hmm . . . that’s a hard question.” Your spouse asks you what you want for dinner and you say, “Um. Food. Me. Like.” This causes confusion and concern. Naps fix it.
3) If you struggle with anxiety or depression, those struggles worsen. The negative, critical voice in your mind gets much louder. This is counterproductive because instead of getting the rest you need, you try harder to prove you’re a good, social, productive person. Ignore your inner critic and take care of yourself. You’re not selfish; you’re spent.
4) You have a headache, stomachache, back pain, or other physical symptoms with no explanation. There’s a difference between a plain headache and an introvert hangover one. The latter comes with stiff, sore shoulders and travels up your neck to the back of your head. It’s a tension headache, because that much interacting, well, makes you tense.
5) You’re zoning out, daydreaming, or staring into space. This is your mind’s way of taking a break if your body can’t (or won’t). If possible, let yourself do this. It’s not you being spacey or lazy. It’s a smart survival tactic by your introvert system. If you have a kid who does this and they are an introvert, feeling overwhelmed rather than an inability to focus might be a reason.
6) You’re afraid you might yell at someone and/or kick them in the shin. Because everyone and everything gets on your last nerve. The stranger talking on her cell phone in public. Social media posts. The people you love most in all the universe. Again, this isn’t proof you’re a selfish, no-good person. It’s proof you’re an unselfish person who’s given everything you’ve got (and then some). It’s time to give yourself what you need too.
7) You don’t feel like doing anything productive or spiritual. With an introvert hangover, you will not feel like your best self. And things like saying a quick prayer or reading a Bible verse won’t snap you out of it. You’re not in trouble with God when you’re depleted as an introvert—He’s there to help restore every part of you.
When you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s not a time to ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” It’s time to ask, “What do I need?”
To help your nervous system recover, seek out rest and quiet. This might look like taking a nap, going for a walk, reading a book, wandering aimlessly around the house, and/or temporarily kicking everyone you love out of your dwelling. The goal is less external stimulation to balance out the too much you’ve just had.
Yes, sometimes we must endure an introvert hangover for the greater good. We don’t want to skip all the activities for our best friend’s wedding. We may live through a season with three demanding toddlers clutching our ankles most days. Certain projects or seasons at work may mean we survive on caffeine and willpower for a few weeks. I’m not advocating anyone say, “Sorry, I know this is life or death, but I can’t risk getting an introvert hangover.”
What we need to understand is introvert hangovers are unavoidable when we surpass our limits. When we know that, we’re kinder to ourselves, more able to express what’s going on to others, and strategic about preparing for and recovering from energy expenses that take a lot out of us.
Cheering You On,
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