health

5 signs you're dealing with a 'social hangover' and what to do about it.

That feeling. You know the one.

You're so excited to be out doing stuff again! Seeing people IRL! Choosing an outfit! Doing your hair and makeup! Catching transport!

You meet up with your friends for a boozy lunch in a busy restaurant, catching up, having some lols. You kick on until the evening - and oh, we're dancing! And it's crowded! Loud! SO MANY PEOPLE!

And then you wake up the next morning feeling... drained. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.

It's like a normal hangover, except not. Is it worse? Possibly. 

You kind of feel like you need to hide yourself away for a week and sleep/stare at the TV just to recover.

It's called a 'social hangover' and it's a term that has been gaining a lotta traction post-pandemic. So, you're not alone.

Watch: These signs will help you know if you should see a psychologist. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

After the constant re-adjusting, many of us just don't have the same amount of cognitive energy or capacity to hop from one social function to the next. These days, more than one social engagement a week can feel like A LOT.

Dinner on a Friday and drinks on a Saturday? We're already exhausted just thinking about it. 

The batteries. They need time to recharge.

So, what are some signs you should look out for? And how should you deal with it?

We chat to Veronica West, a psychologist at Lysn, to find out more about what we're feeling right now and how to navigate it.

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What is a social hangover?

While this term might be new to many of us, the concept has actually been around for quite a while. All the introverted people out there know what's up, am I right?

"It has certainly gained more attention as we return from the restrictive ways of the early pandemic," said West. "Social hangover is the experience of feeling overwhelmed after 'too much' social engagement and interaction."

It's easy to overlook, but socialising can actually be really bloody mentally taxing - and seeing as many of us are a bit out of practice, you'll probably notice it might be even more draining than usual.

What are some common signs of a social hangover?

In a nutshell, a social hangover feels a lot like burnout. Keep in mind that you don't need to experience all the common symptoms to have a social hangover, or you might even experience different ones.

Some of the common signs of a social hangover include:

1. Fatigue or low energy.

You're tired. Like, super tired. You have zero energy and feel sluggish AF - all you want to do is curl up on the sofa and watch your favourite TV series. Is that too much to ask? IS IT.

2. Irritabile.

Is every little thing getting on your nerves? No matter how small of an annoyance it may be, a social hangover can be enough to throw you into a big ol' emotional meltdown. Cute!

3. Difficulty in maintaining concentration.

Do you want to Uber Eats Thai food or McDonalds? HARD TO SAY. If you're socially hungover, sometimes your brain can feel so scrambled and fatigued it can be hard to make even the smallest decisions. 

When it comes to bigger issues, you might find yourself going over the same information over and over again until it all just becomes too exhausting. Sigh.

4. Physical symtoms.

Yes, this is a thing. If you're dealing with a social hangover, it's not uncommon to feel achy, experience a headache, or just not feel like your usual cheerful self.

5. You just want to be alone.

No polite chitchat, no entertaining, no effort. You just want to... be alone. Recharge your batteries. Order two meals for one person. Do a bit of self-care. You might permit your partner or roommate to hang with you - so long as they don't expect too much.

As West reminds us, it's also important to keep in mind that anyone can experience a social hangover - it's not just people who are socially anxious.

"However, we generally see this experience more in individuals who are more introverted or sensitive to sensory overload," said West.

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Is being socially hungover different from being socially anxious?

According to West, being socially hungover and being socially anxious are two very separate things.

"You can certainly experience a social hangover even though you don’t present with social anxiety," she explains. 

"Generally, what we see is that social hangover occurs in individuals who are usually more introverted or present with a more highly sensitive nervous system (e.g., individuals more sensitive to sensory overload in the form of physical, emotional, or social stimuli)."

Interesting!

West goes on to explain that when you're socially hungover, there is a sense of 'overload' of social interaction and stimuli which results in a feeling of overwhelm following socialisation. 

Whereas with social anxiety, this is a "clinical condition where the individual experiences high levels of anxiety leading up to thinking about and directly engaging in social interaction."

For some people, social anxiety is something they might have developed off the back of the pandemic, while for others already suffering from the condition, the pandemic might have exacerbated it. 

"I would say that we are definitely seeing an increase in both this phenomenon as well as general anxiety in social situation on this side of the pandemic," said West.

Then, there's the added layer of health anxiety. "We have been living in a world where social interaction is not only not preferred but actively avoided due to risk of transmission of COVID." 

Think of it like not working out for a while. Your social muscles haven't been used in a while and you might not be able to do all the things you could do before - and you feel absolutely exhausted afterwards. But it just takes time.

"With the pandemic we have not had to be as aware of social cues and interactions outside of what can be seen on a Zoom call or heard over phone, and we have been able to opt out of any stimuli that we find bothersome (e.g., loud noises, crowds, touch etc). It is going to take some time for us to adjust back to our 'normal' day-to-day experiences again."

What can you do about it?

First off, you need to look after yourself. Like, actually. 

This includes setting some boundaries when it comes to committing to different social events. Because it's okay to say no, you guys. It really is.

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"It can be helpful to set clear expectations and boundaries for yourself around your comfort levels in engaging in social settings and communicate this with your friends and family," said West.

"This may include still engaging in social events but choosing to leave at an earlier time, or it may mean becoming better at saying no to social events and interactions that don’t feel right to you. It is important to find your own comfort level here and work from this place rather than trying to fit in to the social calendar of those around you."

And you shouldn't feel guilty about it. Your loved ones and friends need to be okay with it and you shouldn't need to feel like you have to explain your choices. Or apologise 73 times in one text message.

If you start to notice the symptoms for yourself, West said it may be a warning sign that your general self-care balance is off. So, pay attention to this.

"It can be helpful to take stock of your day-to-day activities to check in with yourself to see if you get enough of what you need to help recharge your batteries," she said.

"This may be more time for yourself engaging in quiet activities or interests, good nutrition, balanced sleep or exercise. Having a balanced approach to social interaction and 'you time' can be incredibly helpful in avoiding repeated experiences of social hangover."

Most importantly, don't feel like it's just you. You're not alone! And if it's feeling like it's impacting your life - don't be afraid to reach out to a pro for help.

"We are seeing an upswing in these experiences at the moment, however it is important to be aware of that with repeated exposure to social interactions and a return to a stable routine in this space you will most of the time see that these symptoms ease by themselves over time."

"However, should these experiences go on for an extended period of time or you notice these symptoms starting to impact on your relationships, work life or general health it is certainly worthwhile getting some professional and personalised advice by a therapist to help you get back on track."

Can you relate to the feeling of having a 'social hangover'? SAME. Share some of your thoughts in the comment section below.

Feature Image: Getty

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