A social hangover

high intensity social events can lead to social overload and a social hangover

I am currently struggling with a "social hangover". I don't know if this is "a thing" but it perfectly describes how I feel when I need to shut myself off after a period of increased social demands. After a busy week with multiple social events, I am now exhausted, on edge and need time to socially detox.

A highlight of the week was an amazing informal networking dinner hosted for women in leadership. It was inspiring to be around 12 other women who are literally changing the world. There was also something quite empowering about sharing our personal leadership stories and coming together to understand and support each other with our personal leadership challenges.

This was followed by a big work party, to celebrate the achievements of those (including me) who were recently promoted. It was a great night among 200+ colleagues celebrating what has been a major milestone for me, and I enjoyed reconnecting with many colleagues I hadn't seen in a while.

There were also some big planning sessions on my project which involved brainstorming sessions with more than 10 of the project leads from my team. This required us all to focus on a challenge we are facing and collectively discuss how we could address it in the year to come. Coming out of the sessions, our manager was positive and thanked me for sharing my insights based on lessons learnt over the past year.

All in all a positive week. Yet here I am, feeling wiped out. My body feels leaden, and the thought of facing anyone (even my family) causes my body to tense up. All I want to do is hide in bed and escape from the world. I am not depressed, just drained.

here I am, feeling wiped out. My body feels leaden, and the thought of facing anyone (even my family) causes my body to tense up

Some of you may be wondering why. Especially if I told you that I am an extrovert who loves being around others .... most of the time.

For a long time it made no sense to me - how can you be an extrovert who struggles with being social? For me, socialising takes a tremendous amount of effort. I struggle in large groups, find it hard to connect with people I don't know, feel nauseous when I need to make small talk, and find it difficult to participate in unstructured group discussions.  I now realise that I need to socialise in moderation. Too much socialising and I will be left with a social hangover, as a result of the effort that I need expend in order to achieve that level of sociability.

At the leadership dinner, I didn't know the other ladies and I had to overcome my fear of talking with people I don't know. I also struggled to remember a lot of information that the other ladies had shared about themselves, had to actively remind myself to ask the other ladies questions, and proactively stop myself from just talking about me and what I think. I also sometimes struggled to remain engaged in conversations, as I often forget what is said in a fast moving conversation, and then need to try patch together different parts of the conversation before I can respond. 

The number of people at the promotion celebration was overwhelming at times. I desperately wanted to have a fun night and join in but felt unsettled. I couldn't think of things to say, became overly worried about boring people, and often felt like a third party in group discussions. I spent a lot of time wandering through the crowd looking for people I recognised but felt too unsettled to stay longer than a few minutes in any one conversation. Whilst I was happy to wander around, I had a fear of being left on my own with no one I knew to talk to. This meant that for much of the night I was panicked about the people I knew leaving, so I had to keep checking in with them to make sure that they hadn't left. As a result, I wasn't really allowing myself to stop and enjoy the fun. 

During the big meeting, I had to restrain myself and work hard to look for signs when I might be starting to disrupt the flow of the conversation and negatively impact the usefulness of the meeting. Throughout the session, I was mentally reminding myself to let other people talk and not to dismiss things I didn't agree with, whilst trying to keep my face from showing any frustration. I also had to think carefully about what I said so that I didn't come across as lecturing the others or trying to "railroad" the conversation. And, of course, I needed to follow what was being said without zoning out and losing track of the conversation, which can be a struggle when many people are talking. 

The social demands of these events have taken it out of me and three days later I am still struggling. The family are downstairs and I can hear their laughter (and occasional squabbles) whilst I sit here in my room alone. I would love to head down and join them, but my body and mind are screaming "don't go". 

I need social detoxing before I can enter into the social world again. 

I need social detoxing before I can enter into the social world again. The cure for this social hangover is some downtime and a manually repetitive task that requires little thinking, so I am off to update the links on my blog site after having changed domain two months ago. I am ready for this hangover to be over so I can get back to engaging with my life and those around me.

Spectrum Sunday

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