Social Battery Drained? Here’s How to Recharge

Woman alone and tired at social event

It’s happened to all of us: you’re at a party or work event, chatting, eating and drinking when your energy starts to drain. You cannot join the conversation. You look at your phone and look for an exit. You start fantasizing about being in bed or just having a moment to yourself. It’s official: your social battery is dead and you won’t be fully present again until you can recharge it.

Everyone has a social battery, which is essentially “a tool we can use to measure the amount of energy we have to engage socially,” says Alexandra McNulty, LCSW-C, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety disorders. Each person has a different ability to interact socially, which is influenced by many things: how we feel mentally and physically, where we fall on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, and any factors that might contribute to power imbalances, such as racism or job hierarchies says McNulty.

You might find your social battery draining over the course of a day or night, or it might build up over time as your social calendar piles up with no recharge time (think holidays, family reunions, multi-day events). But why is our social battery going low in the first place, and what should you do when it gets there? POPSUGAR spoke to three mental health experts to find out.

Why is my social battery low?

Your social battery “is the juice that keeps you energized and engaged in social situations,” Elyse Schunkewitz, LSCW, a holistic psychotherapist and personal trainer, tells POPSUGAR. Each person’s social battery is “as unique as their thumbprint.” Some of us thrive when social plans accumulate; others need a week or two between events to recharge their batteries. In any case, your nervous system has a limited capacity for any type of activity, and that includes socializing. At some point, even the most extroverted of us need a break.

Lots of things can drain your social battery, and it often happens during times like the holidays when you’re being pulled in different directions, says McNulty. “Everyone’s social battery differs in how quickly it drains, what activities are likely to deplete it, and how quickly it can recharge,” psychotherapist Kelly Neupert, LPC, tells POPSUGAR. According to our experts, these are some situations that could drain your social battery.

  • A long stretch of social plans without sufficient time to recharge.
  • Neglect of nonsocial needs or responsibilities (such as work, sleep, or exercise).
  • Being around people you can’t be your true, authentic self with.
  • concerns about social plans.
  • Scrolling through social media.
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Yes, you read the last two correctly. You don’t have to actively engage with people to drain your social battery, McNulty says, calling these situations “insidious” battery drains. “Even though we’re not social, worrying about a series of social events can be like keeping a bunch of tabs and apps open on your phone,” she explains. Just like opening all those apps and tabs will drain your phone’s battery in the background, all that general stress and anxiety in social situations can drain your social battery before you even open the party door. Schunkewitz agrees, saying that for some of us, “the anxiety that comes with socializing is more exhausting than socializing itself.” Similarly, scrolling through social media can contribute to a draining social battery “because it can activate the same cognitions and brain functions as social events,” explains McNulty, which tires the social part of your brain.

And it’s worth noting that not all social situations affect your social battery in the same way. For example, you might thrive in one-on-one sessions or smaller groups and actually feel recharged after those outings, Neupert explains, but be drained after larger group events. The best way to find out what’s draining your social battery is to pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after certain social situations or periods of heavy social events.

Low social battery: signs to look out for

How can you tell if your social battery is running low? Chances are, when you feel it, you’ll know: exhaustion, grumpiness, and a desire to pause the event and go to bed for a while. When your social battery is drained, you may feel:

  • Disinterested in activities or subjects you usually enjoy.
  • Overwhelmed by minor social commitments, like answering a text message.
  • Feeling nervous, irritated, or angry with others, including friends.
  • Physical pain, such as a headache, back pain, or lack of energy.
  • The desire to pull an “Irish exit” (to leave without saying goodbye) more than usual.
  • Quieter than usual because you are exhausted from the conversation.
  • Desperate to go home.
  • A strong desire to cry.
  • symptoms of depression.
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These signs of a weak or depleted social battery can be true at the micro or macro level. That means you might feel symptoms over the course of an outing or as an accumulation across multiple events, Schunkewitz says. To spot your own signs of social burnout, take some time to do some research before and after a social event, Neupert says. “Are you excited to go, are you dreading it, or are you feeling mi? When you’re there, do you enjoy it or do you count the minutes until you go home? Do you feel like this no matter the activity, or is it mostly in large groups of people?” By recognizing which situations are draining your social battery and what signs to look out for, you can pause your schedule before you reach the point of complete exhaustion reach.

What to do when you’ve drained your social battery

If you find that your social battery is completely drained in the middle of an event, it’s best to take a break. Go outside or go to the toilet. Try box breathing, stretching slightly, or gargling with water for 30 seconds, which Schunkewitz says activates your vagus nerve and helps you calm down. Take a short walk around the block, drink some water, or spend a few minutes with your pets to get away from more stressful conversations.

If your social battery runs low frequently, or you have a long series of social events ahead of you, our experts recommend some techniques that can help reduce or prevent social burnout.

  • Schedule “me time” between events. Do your best to find time between social events, no matter how brief, to slow down and ground yourself. This can be as simple as taking a short walk before your next meeting at a work conference, or it can be more robust, such as B. Scheduling a self-care day between holiday celebrations. McNulty recommends planning this time right into your calendar so it feels just as important as your other events and commitments (because it is!).
  • Prioritize activities that charge you. In other words, don’t use your downtime to scroll TikTok or watch Netflix unless it really rejuvenates you. It’s time to engage in activities that ground and charge you, like exercise, sleep, reading, good nutrition, sunlight, breathwork, and meditation, says Schunkewitz. “Be conscious of the activities that make you feel good and give you energy,” adds Neupert, rather than looking for something to numb you. And make sure you are present during this alone time. “When you’re spending time with yourself, choose to be as engaged and present as you would be with another person,” advises McNulty.
  • Take a close look at the people you spend time with. If you find that being with a certain person or group of people often drains your social battery, it may be a sign that you can’t be yourself around them, Neupert says. Consider limiting your time with these people who are likely to drain your energy without giving back.
  • set limits. “It’s okay not to be at every social event,” says Neupert. If you find it exhausting to show up for everything, “pick the ones that you care about and will actually (not just physically) be there for,” she says. “People are more interested in whether you showed up than how long you stayed,” adds Schunkewitz, so you should also consider doing shorter gigs if possible.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. If you’re struggling with shame or guilt about your exhaustion, or experiencing FOMO because you’ve missed events due to social burnout, know that “it’s okay and normal to feel those things,” Neupert emphasizes. Allow yourself to feel them and then let them pass. “You’ll find yourself in trouble and nervousness if you let those feelings dictate the boundaries you set or push you to do something you know you’re going to be unhappy with,” explains Neupert.
  • Talk to a therapist. If you find that your social battery is often drained and these tools aren’t helping or you’re not sure how to implement them, you should consult a psychologist to help you conserve your energy and manage your time effectively.
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When your social life gets hectic, it’s all too easy to zip from one event to the next without pausing in between. It can even be fun and exciting – until you burn your social battery to the point of exhaustion. As important as it is to maintain friendships and be social, “Your relationship with yourself is arguably the most important relationship you will ever have,” says Schunkewitz. Don’t neglect yourself, even when your social life gets hectic, she adds. “Taking time to rest, rejuvenate and rejuvenate yourself is one of the best things you can do for your social life.”

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