Why you need more recovery time after socialising right now

The world is opening up. It’s what we’ve been waiting for all year. But there’s one problem… we are tired.

We have all filled up our social calendars to breaking point so that we can make up for lost time, but going from 0-100 in the space of a few weeks is taking its toll.

If you’re finding yourself completely exhausted after a weekend of beer-garden hopping, or a mid-week al-fresco dinner date – you’re not alone. Our social stamina is depleted and we can’t keep up with the pre-pandemic pace.

And that’s OK. It makes sense that we will have to ease ourselves back in to our busier lifestyles – just like you have to take it easy when you go back to the gym after a long hiatus. The key is to understand why you need more social recovery time at the moment, and plan accordingly.

The last thing you want right now is social burnout.

‘If you are feeling a level of social exhaustion at the moment, remember it’s completely normal to do so,’ says psychologist and wellbeing consultant Lee Chambers MSc MBPsS.

‘When we consider the excitement and anticipation of getting back out, seeing people and regaining some of our freedom, that can easily mask the fact it’s likely we are a bit out of practice managing our social energy.

‘We haven’t lost our social skills, as we develop these at a young age, but they are likely to be rusty, and shaking off this rust in itself is a drain on our resources.’

Lee says there are several factors that are at risk of social burnout right now. Firstly, there is still an underlying anxiety from the pandemic.

‘It hasn’t disappeared and is actually getting worse in some part of the world,’ says Lee. ‘This hyper-awareness still sits in our minds and has us considering how we act in social situations, and what other people and we are comfortable with.

‘The constant stress of this can start to make us feel like we are burning out.’

He adds that we are also facing a lot of expectation to embrace the end of lockdown and make the most of restrictions lifting – which can make you feel guilty or boring for wanting to spend time at home or rest.

‘And there’s an element of scarcity with limited bookings and capacity for events,’ says Lee. ‘This makes it harder to say “no”, not wanting to miss the opportunity or let others down.’

How to recover from social exhaustion

Social exhaustion can manifest in a number of ways. You might feel extreme tiredness and fatigue, maybe you feel irritated, sad or anxious after or during social plans. You could also start to feel disconnected from your friends or loved ones, or you might even start getting physically ill.

Lee says that time to recover and recharge is vital.

‘Think about your social battery as a mobile phone,’ Lee tells Metro.co.uk. ‘We only have so much charge, and the brighter the screen, the more rapidly we lose that charge.

‘Our recovery time is a vital part of enjoying our social experiences, as well as other facets of our lives. Sleep is vital for our emotional balance, which is crucial to enjoying socialising and keeping our charge for longer.

‘You don’t need permission to leave early or to miss out on an occasion to practice self-care and prioritise your needs.

‘Being honest to ourselves and accepting we can’t do everything is an essential step in realising that our enjoyment of seeing others comes from where we currently are, and if this is low battery, that is exactly how we will turn up.’

Avoiding social burnout really comes down to making positive decisions for your self, and listening to your body.

We are all really excited to have plans again, and being busier, seeing people and having fun things to look forward to can all have a positive impact on your mental health. But it’s important to be aware of how our needs have changed after a year of living through a pandemic. It’s OK if you need to rest more than you used to.

‘Embrace yourself with kindness and know that your energy is important to be the best version of yourself socially and personally,’ suggests Lee.

‘Take some time to think about what triggers you to empty the tank, and this awareness will help you prepare for upcoming events.

‘At the same time, write down things that recharge you, and schedule them into your diary as important events too. These activities are a great way to get that mental boost and restore your energy while caring for yourself.’

When it comes to social events, Lee suggests to use the ‘quality over quantity’ approach. So, be selective with your invites.

‘Instead of thinking of the expectations of others, think about how much meaning it has to you, and commit fully to things that have meaning, including preparing your energy for them,’ says Lee.

‘When considering social occasions that you might say “no” to, consider offering an alternative that is less consuming, or expressing how you feel.

‘Your friends are likely to be more understanding if you are expressing emotion and showing willingness with options. Honesty rather than elaborate explanations help others to understand where you currently are.

‘And it is important to challenge yourself a little socially at the moment, while having the energy to enjoy yourself and embrace optimism for the future.’

Remember, just because you can eat out and go to pub gardens again – that doesn’t mean you have to do that every weekend.

Try to maintain some of the positive self-care habits you started during lockdown. Rest is, arguably, even more important as the world starts to open up again.

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