How to Avoid Social Exhaustion and Still Be a Good Friend

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It took a global pandemic for us to fully acknowledge how utterly exhausting socializing can be—even if it’s with people you genuinely like. Of course, this is something introverts have always known, but now, after most people stopped spending time with friends for at least some period of time over the past two-and-a-half years, everyone else has a much better idea of what it feels like.

This social fatigue presents us with a challenge: How do we keep up with our friends, when just the thought of being “on” is exhausting? Here are a few strategies that could help.

Set—and communicate—boundaries

There’s no rule saying that socializing has to be an all-day (or even all-evening) affair. Before you start making plans, tell your friend that you’d love to hang out, but need to limit it to a one-hour lunch, or a particular event followed by one drink afterward, for example.

Though you don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you’re not able to spend more time together, you certainly can be honest with your friend and tell them that socializing wipes you out. They may even feel the same way and be grateful that you said something.

Schedule some alone time

If making plans with someone else feels overwhelming, it may help to officially make some time for yourself (as in, put it on the calendar). This way you know that you’ll have some quiet time to recover, instead of having to move on to the next tiring task (even if it’s one you enjoy).

Identify (and avoid) the most triggering situations

Part of your social exhaustion may stem from feeling anxious in particular settings or situations. First, figure out what those are (if any). For instance, do you dread going to loud restaurants or bars and having to strain to hear your friend and yell in order to be heard? Or can you handle socializing with one or two people, but get nervous when there are more people than that?

Think through what makes you uncomfortable, then let your friend know that those are things you’d like to avoid, if possible. From there, make plans that work for everyone (or at least don’t trigger unnecessary anxiety).

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