As a Sagittarius rising, I often get mistaken as extroverted—people are surprised to learn that I am, in fact, an introvert. One of the most common misconceptions about introverts is that we're shy and don't like people, says Field Trip Health psychotherapist Mike Dow, PsyD. "Introversion may look like shyness to an extrovert—but it's really more about the energy depletion and the way they experience the world," he explains. We just need a lot of alone time to recharge after being social, whereas an extrovert thrives on the energy of other people. Like many an introvert, I've woken up the morning after hanging out with people nursing both an alcohol hangover and an "introvert hangover,” exhausted from the effort of being around others.
According to Dr. Dow, the concept of introversion originally focused on all the mental energy that introverts use when socializing. "I've also seen my own introverted patients experience a depletion of physical energy when socializing too much," says Dr. Dow. "This is why introverts need alone time. That combination of both mental and physical energy depletion is what I would identify as the 'introvert hangover' despite the fact it's not a recognized diagnosis."
In addition to being drained physically and mentally, you can also be drained spiritually, Dr. Dow says. "I tell my patients that 'feelings are information.' Thus, this introvert hangover is information that you overdid the socializing and haven't spent enough time alone in your own thoughts/within your own psyche—where introverts thrive," he says.
An introvert hangover can leave you too exhausted to deal with people IRL, and can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days or more. If you experience the latter, Dr. Dow says you really know you overdid it and seriously need to prioritize some alone time. An introvert hangover can even make responding to texts feel like an insurmountable task. (Speaking from personal experience, this happens, even if those texts are from close friends and family.) "If you don't have the energy to text back, you know that you have really depleted your inner battery of physical/mental energy," says Dr. Dow. "Ask yourself: What did I learn from this experience? How can I manage my energy better next time?"
The good news is that introvert hangovers can be helped, and even prevented, with the right recharge methods. First up: taking some alone time. Dr. Dow suggests meditation, a session of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (which is what they specialize in at Field Trip Health), gardening, or time reading as means of doing so.
It can also be helpful to set up systems to explain to friends and family why you are going to be MIA for a bit. "Don't feel guilty about this time within your own inner world,” says Dr. Dow. “This is where introverts thrive. Let your closest family and friends know that you've upping your self-care game and, thus, are going to go into brick mode on your phone and set your away message on email when you're going into introvert recharge mode. This will save you from having to send individual texts."
Dr. Dow also says to own your self-worth, and be honest with people. "When you're in a good space, tell them something like: 'I'm being more conscious with the way I pay attention to what I need and my energy. If you ever get a brick mode text back or my flower emoji, you'll know I'm recharging.'" He adds that you can prevent abandonment and hurt feelings by making clear the time limit. "So if your mom keeps on texting, say, 'Hey mom, I'm in recharge mode. I'll text you back tomorrow,' instead of 'I can't talk right now,'" he says. "The former is positive and specific; the latter is negative and vague. Positive and specific communication makes relationships better—whether they're personal or work." He adds that the person who needs a time out is the one who should come back. (Meaning: You DO have to text your mom back after the recharge time you set up.)
But there is no need to rush to recharge. "Use the methods above until you notice your energy returning," Dr. Dow says. As you start to incorporate them and become more aware of how much time with others is too much, Dr. Dow says you can begin to make adjustments to prevent an introvert hangover from happening in the first place.
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