Ask a Therapist: On Social Rest
Q: I feel like I am around people all the time but it just wears me out. Is that just because I am an introvert?
A: There is an energy that we experience when we are around people which has the potential to be draining or life-giving. It’s broadly true that extroverted people tend to be energized by time with others whereas introverted people tend to be depleted by social experiences; however, there is more than that to consider when examining the value of social interaction. Both extroverts and introverts need time with others and time in solitude in some proportion to maintain their holistic health but often the energy of the particular people in one’s social circles matters the most.
The degree to which a social interaction is restorative is an important thing to consider when you are choosing your communities and connections. Social rest is found by recognizing both the need for face-to-face, meaningful, and authentic connections with others while placing good boundaries around negativity.
Even as an introverted person, it may not be the simple fact that you are around people most of the time that is depleting you; rather, it may be that you are spending time with people who always need or demand something from you or who are consistently negative and that energy will cause social fatigue. If you are someone in a helping profession, you may experience exhaustion due to an overexposure to grief, suffering, and challenging circumstances that understandably are a heavy energetic burden and this can lead to compassion fatigue in your interactions with others as well.
Unhealthy and hurting people often bring toxicity and strife to their relationships and these types of relationships can be particularly depleting. On the other hand, spending time with healthy people who are genuinely invested in bringing goodness to your life will restore your energy in tremendous ways.
Making conscious choices to connect with positive friends, family, colleagues, and other restorative people (like mentors, teachers, doctors, clergy, and counsellors) will make all the difference. A therapist can help clients discern and assess the level of depletion or the restorative capacity of particular relationship dynamics in your life. They can help you build a plan to increase positive connections while placing healthy boundaries to protect against ongoing negative interactions.
Needless to say, being socially disconnected negatively affects your well-being in significant ways and many are recovering from that reality having dominated their lives through the pandemic; but, it’s also prudent to assess the quality of the social interactions you are choosing and to remember that you need the positive energy of life-giving people to keep you healthy! What is one step that you could take today to bring some vitality back to your social life?
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