The holiday season brings plenty of opportunities to reconnect with family, friends, and maybe even past flames. Each invitation that comes your way may seem more tempting than the last, but by overloading your schedule with parties, brunches, and “catch-ups,” you’re also RSVPing to a bout of social exhaustion.
“Social exhaustion is when you’ve socialized to the point that you can’t do it anymore, and you need some quiet time alone with no pressure,” says licensed clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “It can be emotional, physical, or both.” The psychologist thinks that holidays are practically a pressure cooker for feeling spent, particularly if you don’t take time to be alone. “Being alone on the holidays carries a lot of emotional weight because of fantasies about how it should be. There are also assumptions that if you’re not around people you must be unhappy, which isn’t always true,” she says.
For you, social exhaustion may be apparent. You may start the small talk with your third cousin, Sal, and think Wow, I need to take a break, stat. That’s not always the case, however. “Other times, you might feel angry, stressed, or physically tired, and you’ll need to stop for a few minutes and think about why,” says Dr. Daramus. If you feel about ready to snap at Sal for asking why you’re still single, chances are you’ve got a case of the I-need-to-be-alones.
A psychologists 3 strategies for dealing with social exhaustion
1. only go to the events that you genuinely believe you’ll enjoy
Dr. Daramus says that being a little more selective with your social calendar can make a major difference for your mental health. “Figure out which events have the most value to you. Who do you really want to be with, and what do you really want to do? Those events are high priority. Things you ‘should’ do, or that may be toxic for you, are a lower priority,” she advises. So that’s a no on hooking up with your high school ex.
2. master the art of the drop-in
“You don’t always have to arrive at the beginning of an event and stay until the end, especially since a lot of people have overlapping events,” says Dr. Daramus. “If you’re getting too exhausted but can’t skip something, stay for as little time as possible, and make and excuse if you need to. A white lie might be okay if it protects your mental health.”
3. Put “me-time” in your calendar in between social engagements
Your company-wide holiday party gets a place in your calendar—so why shouldn’t your “me-time”? “This will be particularly important if you live with family or roommates. Figure out a time and place you can be alone, and make your alone time a high priority event,” says Dr. Daramus.
Feeling holiday cheer burnout? Here’s how you should unwind, according to your Zodiac sign. Plus, why booking a friends’ trip is so good for your mental health.