5 Ways to Cope When You Suffer from The Social Hangover

Dehydrated, empty, tired, flat, counting down the seconds until I can crawl back under the duvet. I recognise this feeling. I’m hungover.

Except…

I didn’t drink anything yesterday. In fact I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol all week. Maybe it’s not a hangover, perhaps I’m just coming down with something. No, it definitely feels like a hangover.

This was me early today. I am feeling extremely hungover. I don’t want to leave the sofa. I don’t want to be sociable and talk to anyone, I just need to sleep it off. All the symptoms are the same, it’s just the source (or sauce) that is different.

I spent yesterday doing creative work with several groups of people I didn’t really know. It was a long day and involved being in the car for five hours too. I left the house at 8.30am and got back at midnight.

Social hangover

The Social Hangover.

When I woke up this morning I felt these banging hangover symptoms. But as the day goes on I have realised that this is a different kind of hangover. It’s caused by prolonged over-stimulation by being creative (or at least trying), surrounded by people (including those I didn’t know), and travelling a pretty sizeable distance.

It’s the same feeling I sometimes get the morning after playing a gig. Exhaustion. Fatigue. Emptiness.

As a highly sensitive introvert I realise I’ve experienced these social hangovers all my life. Until today I hadn’t really thought too much about them.

I suppose I had always assumed that some days are just good and I feel positive; whereas other days are a bit crap and I just feel flat and empty. While this may feel true it is often possible to find explanations, especially if you’re naturally introverted or highly sensitive.

Sensory input and the presence of people can act like alcohol; your body consumes it and your mind is progressively stimulated and moved away from its default state. The longer you are exposed to it (i.e. the more you drink), the longer it will take to recover (the more hungover you get).

When you’re hungover after drinking too much you don’t feel like yourself. You might feel powerless, weak, and internally divided; it’s like your body and mind are punishing you for what you did to them. A social hangover is no different and I’ve realised there are some important things to bear in mind if and when you ever suffer from one:

1. Don’t Make any Rash Impactful Decisions

When you’re feeling out of sorts it’s tempting to make big decisions; maybe you’re going to quit something, join something, or maybe you are ‘never drinking again’.

It’s important to remember when you’re experiencing a Social/Over-Stimulation Hangover that you are in a temporary state and that your body and mind are trying to cope with what you’ve done to them. You are not in a fit state to make any big reactionary decisions. Just leave it until tomorrow.

2. Cut Yourself Some Slack

You body is simply doing what needs to be done. It’s not your choice. Learn to expect it, cut yourself some slack, and roll with it. By resisting the natural response of your mind to over-stimulation you will make it worse.

3. Do What Needs to be Done

How do you recover from over-stimulation? Do it. You need a lie in? Do it. You want to just curl up in the corner and read books, watch films etc? Do it. I am aware it becomes more difficult to find long stretches of recovery time when you have kids, but there are certainly moments to be found if you are ready to search for them.

4. Remember that your Momentum is still There

Over-stimulation from people and situations can lead to an even wider and more immersive mental overwhelm. I can feel that if I’ve lost control of my ability to cope with my stimulation levels then I’ve lost control of everything; and once one domino has fallen the others are bound to topple too.

This is the point at which I’m always close to quitting whatever it is I feel I’ve lost control of. It’s important therefore to remind myself that after some time recovering I will be right back on top of things and wont have lost any of the momentum.

 

5. Plan Stuff With Full Awareness of How You Cope

The most important and useful thing that we have as humans is the ability to learn. If you ever find yourself suffering from a Social/Over-Stimulation Hangover then notice things like, why you are feeling like that, what caused it, and how you can best recover from it. Learn so that you can help yourself avoid, or at least lessen the effects in the future.

For example I get these effects when I go to music festivals. A day or two in and I am generally really suffering from the bombardment of stimulation and people. Knowing why this is I am able to learn and change how I approach my festival experience. I need somewhere to retreat, a temporary escape to curl up and recover away from noise, crowds and bad smells. Put like that you realise that music festivals are not really a great place for HSPs.

Over to You

So, do you recognise this kind of social hangover? Do you have days when you feel exhausted and empty? Is there a correlation between these days and over-stimulation/lots of people the day(s) before? How do you recover?

18 comments
  1. Finding this article began with a search this morning about talking hangovers. I’m not real social, introverted and very private. However I do have a beloved circle of friends. Generally though, I don’t see them that often so when I do it’s this giant gabfest. I do not drink, or shall I say rarely drink, and so these definite hangover symptoms are not associated to alcohol. I did find one bit of information that discussed when your mouth is open talking you are actually getting dehydrated. This can contribute with a headache. Sounds like staying hydrated, doing electrolytes, not drinking, and giving yourself quiet recovery time the next day is key for me. interesting that so many of us use alcohol to help us get through the social situation, and yet that’s part of what’s causing this problem.

  2. Im starting to get this more and more. At first I thought it was alcohol related, meaning that even after one drink, the next day I’d feel exhausted, heavy, no motivation, empty, (sometimes headaches) muscle reslessness, slow moving, anxious depressed pit in my stomach. And then I thought it happens only if when there was anything emotional or slightly negative that happened than night, then I noticed I’d still get that way when the night went really well, then I started to notice that I’m getting this even when there’s NO alcohol consumed at all that night. So my original alcohol sensitivity thought was wrong. Looking into it I can see that I get this the next day after spending the night with a group of people or when I’m one on one after a date. I realized that I tend to get this when I’m socializing with people I don’t know as well, or relatives that aren’t as close. I never get it when I’m with my best friend, or my parents or my sister.

    I’m an introvert who does need time to myself after socializing. But this social hangover thing is entirely different. It a whole day of exhaustion and sometimes a few more days of anxiety or depression in the pit of my stomach.

    Does anyone else notice they have RLS restless legs/arms when trying to sleep? I also notice that I have trouble winding down after excitement, like my brain wants to replay evens in my head from a night socializing and I analyze the night in my head in terms of how I appeared to others and replaying conversations. Mind very active.

    1. I know this is an old post but I just found it as I sit here nursing my “hangover”. YES, I do get restless legs. Calms Forte helps. I take it as soon as I get home from an event.

    2. I’m 57 and have spent the last 4 years essentially alone, not by choice, (though I’m not in jail) with small social interactions here and there. I honestly did not think I was an introvert until today. The last two weeks I have had a few very intense social interactions with some people whom I don’t trust at all. (i know). 6 hours and two hours. Big hangover the first one, but i thought it was just because there were 3 small kids there.
      Then, last night was a high school reunion type deal with a dozen people I haven’t seen for 38 years. The first half hour was OK, fun even. Next was an hour at a bad noisy restaurant. I think now what happens is that as you reach your limit, you perform worse and worse socially, which leads to harsher and harsher self evaluation. On the way home my sister offered me to stay at her house but said she knew I couldn’t because of my dogs waiting for me. I didn’t know what she was talking about, because I don’t drink any more. Maybe she saw something in my behavior that I didn’t. Now people will get pulled over and get a ticket for over-socializing while being an introvert. “How many hours did you socialize ma’am? What is your INTJ score? Sorry but you’ve had too much to socialize tonight. ”

      I played loud rap music the last 40 minutes home, because I like it and never get to crank it when I have my dogs in the car. When I lay down to sleep it felt like there was an electrical storm in my brain. I thought I had given myself a concussion with my sub-woofers. While that is possible, now I think it is more about the socializing.

      Today I had a horrific introvert hangover. Almost exactly like a real one, but no headache or stomach ache. I have never had anything like this, sober, in my life. Now it makes me question and re-evaluate 40 years of alcohol hangovers. Maybe they had less to do with alcohol and more to do with being an introvert.

      The weird thing is that I initiate a lot of social interaction.

      In the last month, when I have had these 3 IHs (Introvert Hangovers) I did not initiate the interactions. In all three cases, except for hanging out with my 4 year old twin nephews, I dreaded the interactions. These people are not quick or abstract thinkers. They are concrete thinkers who talk about their jobs or vacations or children or houses. All normal topics, just nothing I am used to being a topic of conversation. In fact I don’t really even consider these fact exchanges conversation. Stories, I love. My husband told fantastic stories, full of exaggerations and fabrications. And he had what I consider an interesting life. So talking to normies is a very real struggle for my brain. It is like they are giving me a list to memorize. Names, places, facts, figures. Whaat?

      So I play the exchange of facts/ status game for a short period, but my brain really struggles after that. It’s like it’s sliding down a slope with only weeds to grasp. In the 22 years I was with my husband, at every social gathering people played music. To get together and not play music was just..why would you? There would be no point.

      I have read that serotonin is released in the brain when you feel sort of a status upgrade. And these three recent interactions were full of one-upsmanship: I did something that puts me at a higher status than you, kind of thing. I think that in all 3 of these social interactions I came away feeling that I had lagged behind in the game of life, that I was at the bottom of the status totem pole. But I have also found that if I tell people how good my life is, they try to take me down. So I don’t talk about retiring at 45, living on a lake, and driving an electric car, and having a few, nice, close friends. I withheld that info because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging. And if I start to talk about art and music, the convo goes nowhere, it’s just not on their radar. Having abstract thought/speech within a conversation, is not why these people have social interactions it seems. So I think that part of the IH, for me, was a steep drop in serotonin.

      This is why I have to move back to the big city, to find abstract thinkers, I think this might greatly improve or eliminate Introvert Hangovers.

  3. I only realized I was HSP a few months ago. I always wondered why I was different from everyone else.
    I recall as a child, not wanting to get out of bed in the morning if people were already up and talking because it was more than I could take.
    I liked (and still do) quiet mornings where I can get my bearings for the day slowly. I recognize the same in my 3 1/2 yr old grandson. Trying to get him to dress and eat right away is like world war III. Give him 10 minutes or so and it is fine.

    1. It is quite the eye-opener isn’t it!? That’s really interesting what you say about not wanting to get out of bed when others are already up and talking. I’ve always had a weird thing about wanting to be the first up and to be in place by the time others get up. I guess this is linked to the need to have stimulation drip fed to me, rather than going from nothing to a room full of people, eating, and general sensory bombardment. I love that you can see and understand what is happening in your grandson. Must be very useful!

  4. I didn’t really think that I was a HSP, but I can really identify with this “over-simulation hangovers” and I think it’s more than just introversion. Thanks for these great tips on how to tackle it, really useful 🙂

    1. Thanks, Annie. I’ve found it really interesting to look deeper than simply introversion. I never thought I was an HSP when I read stuff about it, until I properly looked into it. And it makes more sense than introversion, especially my myers-briggs INTJ score. Lots of unanswered questions there!

  5. Oh yes! Do I recognise this! I think I have that social hangover every day… I am always feeling best when I’m alone and that is how I recover…be alone for a bit every day is so essential, 30 mins of ‘alone-time’ a day most of the time is enough to find myself again 🙂

  6. This explains one of my mantra’s to myself, ‘be well, then worry’. Otherwise in this hangover state I just worry about all the things I need to do but don’t have energy for. Another practical thing that really helps me is to do something manual and achievable in a familiar environment. Ie not sort out whole garden but dig that one bed. Really helpful post.

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