Social energy is the fuel that helps us connect with the world around us. It expands when we are physically, emotionally, and creatively rested and inspired. But if we’re not aware of where, when, and how it flows, our energy can easily drain away.
We might not have the energy to socialise at times, even when we haven’t done anything obvious to drain our batteries. This is especially true for introverted and highly sensitive people (HSPs). However big or small, if sensory stimulation isn’t balanced with rest and processing time, we can be left feeling drained of social energy.
Time spent around people can be draining for introverts and highly sensitive people. The flow of energy varies, with some people more draining for us to be with than others. There are a few factors involved in this, including the type of engagement (we might be spending emotional energy in conversations), activity (we might be doing something physically tiring), and demands of others (the person might expect more of us).
Not all relationships are energetically equal. Some people exude the kind of energy that might leave us feeling frustrated, unsafe, and unable to be ourselves. While others can leave us feeling valued, safe, and authentic.
But it’s not just other people that affect our social energy. Many things impact it every day. Some of which we might never think about.
Despite not being in the same physical space, social media engagement can still leave us feeling socially drained. Many of us have developed unhelpful energy habits around our phones. We often reach for them during life’s pauses, poised to see what’s happening online. But social media is a catalyst for reactive emotional festering. The dehumanising space between us means our emotions (both positive and negative) have nowhere particularly productive or helpful to go.
News and Information
We now have an abundance of information at our fingertips. There is always something new to know, research, and respond to. But there is no time to process one tragic news story before the next one hits the headlines. This can create a subtle and persistent background energy leak.
Social energy is also drained by the stories we tell ourselves. We might have thought of rest as laziness or a waste of time. Many of us experience pressure to be productive and use time effectively and efficiently. The messages we have internalised about rest are crucial to be aware of.
Social energy is more quickly drained with other people when we don’t do it very often. After time away from crowds and busy social environments, their impact can feel heightened. We might also feel uncertain about other people’s expectations and demands on us.
7 Ways to Create and Recover More Social Energy
It doesn’t necessarily take much time to recharge, but we can sabotage rest with relentless sensory stimulation or passive inertia. For example, we might always listen to a podcast or audiobook when we’re “doing nothing”. Rest and recovery are active decisions. But the best options for us are not always our default choices.
So how do we keep our social energy battery charged and CREATE rather than deplete our reserves?
Self-Empathy is not a vague definitionless concept. It starts by allowing ourselves to feel and need what we feel and need without self-judgement or blame. We can listen and notice when we’re tired, fed up, or dreading the thought of spending time around people. From there, we can better determine what we need to generate and recover our social energy.
2. Creativity and Social Energy
Actively and intentionally giving ourselves to a creative endeavour is a great way to pour energy into our pool of deep inner reserves. There is satisfaction in seeing something emerge by our hands. The feeling of creative progress and growth can give us a sense of expansive connection to the world and our place in it.
Many introverted and highly sensitive people create social energy when alone or away from people. But that doesn’t automatically mean social energy is created whenever we’re alone. It depends on our state of being and what we do with that solitude.
Regular time spent writing, cooking, playing music, drawing, playing, sculpting, improvising, gardening, crafting etc., can reposition us, increase happiness, and reset our batteries.
3. Social Energy and Personal Boundaries
New technology innovations leave fewer and fewer limits on where, when, and how we can connect and work. There are benefits to this, but it also comes at a cost to our energy, mental health, and physical well-being. And it becomes our responsibility to protect energy around social media, communication, and information overload. This is not an easy burden to carry, especially when we fear missing out, falling behind the competition, or losing an opportunity because we didn’t respond immediately.
In Rising Strong, Brené Brown explores the link between compassion and boundaries. Her research showed the most compassionate people also have the most well-defined and well-respected boundaries. They “ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it.”
Boundaries are an antidote to resentment. They help us move TOWARDS what we decide is important and away from things that don’t matter to us.
It can take time to identify and build boundaries. But once we do, we can enjoy a more meaningful relationship with the social aspects of life.
4. Movement and Social Energy
Physical movement is often something that both requires and generates energy. I have resisted exercise many times because I lacked the energy for it. It’s the last thing we might feel like doing when we feel sluggish and too tired to move.
But there are times when even the slightest movement can unlock this resistance. A few stretches, a dip in the pool, a walk around the block, a workout.
Exercise enhances blood flow, increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue, thus improving their ability to produce more energy. It might make us physically tired, but it lifts our mood and increases our sense of well-being, which generates more creative, social, and emotional energy.
5. Rest and Social Energy
Many of us have been taught to have an unhealthy relationship with the idea of rest. It’s laziness, unproductive, and inefficient use of time. Hustle culture and the endless quest for outward growth make rest a challenge. Even resting, we might have a niggling voice telling us to do something else.
Rest is not simply the opposite of action. It’s part of our rhythm as humans. It’s how we generate and maintain the energy we need for daily life. Rest can’t be rushed or forced. It can’t be squeezed into the margins so that we might hustle harder. It IS the margin—the space and stillness.
6. Build a Play-Ready Environment
Play is a natural part of being human. As children, we don’t need to be incentivised to do it. But as we age, we begin to get in our own way. We think we have to do it right for it to be accurate. Or feel a sense of guilt for not being productive.
Social energy can be created and maintained when we bring a SPIRIT of play into our environment. Rather than an activity that we get out of the cupboard on a wet Sunday afternoon (if we remember), a warm invitation every time we enter the space.
If you built a creative play space in your home, what would it have in it? It doesn’t need to be significant. Just a corner. A nook. A cranny.
This space can also include encountering other peoples’ creativity and art.
Music has incredible restorative power. When you connect with a piece of music deeply, it can provide enormous waves of energy. Same with visual art, poetry, and a good story.
Engaging with art can impact our emotional, physical, mental, social, electrical, neurological, spiritual, energetic, and chemical well-being. We can build these into our physical play environment, the places we go, and the things we choose to do.
7. Rhythm and Social Energy
Energy creation isn’t a one-time thing; it doesn’t come from a single source. It’s about building conducive rhythms and habits that set the conditions for it.
When we have healthy rhythms and boundaries, we might even be energised by social interactions. When we’re intentional with our energy, we spend it on generative projects, relationships, and goals. So even though we might feel physically drained by social interaction, our deeper creative energy reserves grow.
We can build the capacity of our social battery by building our life on tracks that help us maintain the energy we need for the life we want. This looks slightly different for all of us. The more we practice, experiment, and learn, the more we can create conditions for space, time, and energy to invest in our most meaningful projects, relationships, and goals.