Updated: Jul 25
With summer in full swing, you may be busy with social activities and trying to get the most out of the nice weather before winter hits. Thoughts of having a full social calendar may seem enjoyable but in reality, can easily feel overwhelming. I know I can feel overwhelmed when my calendar is full of work events, meetings, social outings, family get-togethers, weddings, birthdays and travelling.
When your calendar starts filling up, that initial excitement may turn to feelings of stress, exhaustion and worry. You may even start looking at your calendar with dread and having urges to cancel plans to spend time alone. It’s normal to crave alone time, especially when life is busy. In this article, I look at some of the things you can do when you start dreading upcoming activities and having urges to cancel. I talk about the social battery metaphor, what it means, how a depleted battery and how to recharge it.
What is a Social Battery?
The concept of a social battery refers to the amount of energy you have to socialize with others. When your social battery is full you welcome opportunities to socialize with others. When your social battery is drained, you may feel fatigued and stressed. The size of someone’s social battery differs from person to person. Individuals who have a shorter-lasting social battery may find socializing particularly tiring or over-stimulating and may need to recharge more often or engage less socially.
An individual may also notice changes in their social battery throughout their life. For example, someone who is moving or has a big work project may have less energy to socialize with others. That energy may increase once the move is complete or the project is over. The types of activities that deplete or recharge us will also differ from person to person and individually throughout our life.
What Impacts Our Social Batteries?
An individual's social battery will be impacted by different factors and to different extents. Understanding what specifically impacts your social battery will help you better protect it and develop ways to recharge it.
There are some common factors that most individuals can identify with when it comes to feeling depleted. For example, you may find that certain people require more energy. Professionally interacting with co-workers may deplete your social battery quicker than interacting with close family members you can be yourself. with. Similarly, interacting with individuals who are judgmental and less supportive can also be draining. Generally, people find social interactions that are easy-going and relaxing much less draining.
Where we socialize may also impact our energy levels. Work settings or large gatherings may be more stimulating, noisy and frenzied and may require more from you than a small group setting. Some find that their capacity to socialize in large gatherings is more limited than in one-on-one or small group settings. Life stressors or changes can also impact our social batteries. We may not physically have the time to socialize or find that stress impacts our ability to be present and socialize with others. When stressed we might also find that we easily tire and become drained much quicker. In addition to stress, your mental and physical health can also impact your social battery. If you are feeling depressed you may not have the motivation or energy to interact with others and may find yourself exhausted after exerting extra effort to socialize. If you are anxious about socializing you may find that worrying and pushing yourself to socialize easily depletes your battery. Individuals who identify as neurodivergent may also find that their social batteries drain faster than those who are neurotypical.
Signs that your Social Battery is Drained
There are some common signs indicating when your social battery has been drained. There are also additional signs specific to you.
Feeling stressed or burned out about socializing.
Where burnout may include feelings of isolation, irritability or exhaustion.
Feeling disengaged or disconnected when interacting with others
Having urges to cancel plans and isolate yourself
Leaving events early or showing up super late
Dreading upcoming events
Worrying about events/socializing or feeling pessimistic about them
Some individuals may feel all, a few or none of the above symptoms. It can be helpful to take time to reflect on what depletes and recharges your social battery so that you can use this information in helpful ways.
How to Recharge Your Social Battery?
There are several ways you can recharge your social battery when it has been depleted, and again, this may be specific to you and different from others. The things we do to recharge our social battery may also be the same things we do to protect it in the first place. Some ways to recharge your social battery include:
Learning to say no to social activities and not overbooking your calendar can maintain and recharge your social battery. Taking time to understand your energy levels can help you say no if your social battery is at risk of depletion. For example, if you have a big deadline at work and are feeling stressed you can say NO or postpone a social gathering until after your work deadline.
Similar to setting boundaries, prioritizing social or life events can help you focus on what's most important and decide on the events you will or not attend. We just can’t be in two places at once or do everything.
Socializing on your terms
If you are aware of what depletes your social battery you can use this information to socialize on your terms. If certain people or activities drain your social battery faster, you can make time-limited plans or choose less draining events, like going for a walk instead of a restaurant.
Addressing any mental health or physical health concerns
When you overcome your mental or physical health symptoms, you may find that the size of your social battery grows and depletes more slowly. Seeking out support from a medical or health professional may help you address your mental or physical health symptoms and directly impact your social battery.
Engaging in self-care
Finding time to engage in enjoyable activities is a great way to recharge your social battery or prevent it from draining. Having a self-care practice not only helps your social battery but contributes to your overall well-being. Some examples of self-care activities include going for a walk, taking a bath, painting, progressive muscle relaxation exercises or breathing exercises.
How Can Therapy Help?
A therapist can provide a safe space for you to talk about your social battery and help you identify the things or people that drain your energy. A therapist can also help you identify symptoms of a depleted battery and help you build coping skills to recharge or maintain your battery. If you feel this is something that can be helpful book a free 15-minute consultation to find out how I can support you!
Reach out if you have any questions!