I don’t know about you, but for the last few years I’ve found too much going on in my social calendar to feel really heavy. Stressful, even. I didn’t practise healthy social organisation skills, said Yes to pretty much anything and started to feel quite overwhelmed.
Sure, there are worse problems to have. Having too many possible social engagements is in a lot of ways, a lovely problem. But the feelings associated with social stress and burnout are no less real than any other kinds. And if your social calendar is spiralling out of control, and you’re feeling chaos instead of respite, then it’s definitely something to talk about. Especially as most of us are guilty of over-scheduling ourselves.
There was once a time where I would never dream of saying, No
Wanna hang out tomorrow? Sure! Are you free in two hours? Absolutely! Have you got time to see me this weekend? I’ll find a way! Never, ever – or extremely rarely – would I decline an invite from anyone for anything.
Maybe it was FOMO. Even if the thing was something I wasn’t that interested in, I’d wonder, What if it’s awesome and I miss out? FOMO lead to a YOLO mentality. As I also used to think, ‘Fuck it, why not.’ In some ways, it was a good view to have. We do really only live once, after all. But it also created a compromise of mental wellbeing for me, in order to meet any social commitment.
Spending any time by myself was also a firm dislike. I realized I liked to keep busy more than I liked to spend a portion of my day with my own solitude. Having a fully packed social calendar does wonders for self-avoidance. Yet, totally sucks for any kind of self-connection.
Now? Oh that’s all changed.
I thought of this recently over the May bank holiday weekend
With a long list of gardening and house chores to complete, a couple of family gatherings in the diary, a need to find some time to write (as I’ve struggled to find the time of late) I had a lot on, but I could have squeezed in more. In theory, I had the time. A few hours here and there. An afternoon or an evening totally free. But when a friend said she was throwing a party and did I want to stop by, even though part of me really wanted too, another part knew that accepting would mean I wouldn’t get enough ‘me’ time.
Then another friend asked if I wanted to tag along to a comedy show in a few weeks, but I looked at my calendar, really thought about how much I have going on either side, and again, decided to decline.
I’m not turning miserable as fuck, promise.
I think I’m just more aware of how important time by myself is. How much I need that downtime to unwind and relax. How too many social engagements can actually stress me out, if there isn’t adequate enough space in between them. But does that make me a bad friend? Sometimes I think it does.
Poorna Bell said it best, “’What prompted the latest bout of social calendar anxiety was something I suspect a lot of people feel: a lack of time met with feeling constantly guilty that I am being a bad friend and am letting other people down.”
I hate turning someone down, especially when I have no other reason than responding with, “I’ve checked my mental inventory, and it’s stacked right now. Please return when I’m a little less overwhelmed.” I know I’m not the worst person in the world for my response, but I do hate that sometimes I have so much going on, and that I’ve over-committed in other areas, that it means saying Yes to a social interaction just isn’t possible at that moment in time.
Of course I don’t need to have a reason for saying, No. I know that really
And I do have a firmer understanding of how positive that No can be for me. Yet I still feel guilty about saying it. And it’s even harder when I don’t have a reason. “Oh, you’ve got something else on?.” Erm, No. I just want that night free to be by myself, or do whatever else it is I want or need to do with that time. Be alone. Recharge. Unwind. Reconnect with myself.
Don’t get me wrong, social interaction absolutely stimulates me, and I love being around people I care about. I love to talk. Hang out. See my peeps. I’d always seen myself as an extrovert, but maybe I’m borderline introverted nowadays, or an introverted extrovert. Because social exhaustion is also a thing I suffer from. I love social stimulation, but too much of it, leaves me socially fatigued.
Part of my self-care now is listening to myself
If my body feels tired, it cannot take on anymore. If my mind is reaching burnout, it needs time to recharge and reset. I suppose its setting myself healthy boundaries, knowing the limit and not over-committing. Trying not to feel too guilty about holding myself accountable for taking care of my mental health. And create some sort of balance between seeing people I love, and loving myself enough to know when to say No to a social engagement and recognising that it’s totally okay.
Do you struggle with social exhaustion and an over-committed diary? What helps for creating a healthy balance for you?.