Here’s an amazing feeling to have: You’re on your sixth group hang of the week, surrounded by friends, cans of seltzer or beer in hand, vibing, loving life, getting the contact high that only comes from having a full social calendar and being constantly around cool people. The world is beautiful; friends rock and being near them rocks even harder, especially now, after all this time! Then, on the seventh morning, there’s a hard crash. You wake up feeling drained, unable and unmotivated to socialize further. After days of “fun,” all you want is to curl up and be totally alone for a bit. Not to sound like an infomercial, but perhaps what you’re experiencing is a “social hangover.”
Social hangovers are a pop psychology concept that, not unlike a real hangover, refer to the general malaise you feel after a night of social contact. “A social hangover can feel like you’re walking in quicksand or being surrounded by a fog,” therapist Melissa Russiano told VICE. “Everything takes more work, more energy, and appears to be overwhelming, confusing, and exhausting.”
The term is rooted in introvert language, which may or may not be bullshit, but the feeling is real. Anyone who’s ever experienced the phenomenon of being exhausted and depleted—and maybe even experienced a bit of the liking gap—after a busy week of Events and Big Nights Out (unrelated to alcohol or drugs) has dealt with a social hangover. Maybe you’ve described it to yourself as burnout, which isn’t totally off; the two feelings are similar, but what we’re talking about here is less about systemic issues, and more about the simple feeling of overdoing it on chit chat and fun.
You may be hearing the term more lately. As lockdowns lift and 18 months of relative isolation give way to a flurry of events and activities, some people who never identified as introverts are finding they have a notably lower tolerance, so to speak, for socializing. “We have all lived through something surreal and it will take time to integrate back into the social scene,” Russiano said.
In that sense, it’s better to think of social hangovers not as a sign that you should stop socializing altogether, but as a sign that you’re still adjusting to having in-person fun with other people. Our calendars were empty for over 18 months; it’s natural that nonstop fun would be a bit jarring, even for the most extroverted. But remember, it’s just a hangover—you can and probably will keep going out! Who among us hasn’t woken up on Saturday morning with the spins and a headache from drinking one too many Faux Lokos, only to go out and do it all over again on Saturday night? The same is true for social hangovers, minus the need to hurl.
If you’re finding social hangovers to be annoying or debilitating, Russiano had some key advice: “Make sure there’s enough recharge time on a daily basis,” she said. “Social hangovers are not about two weeks of vacation per year. They’re about finding time daily to recharge.”
Recharging can look like sleeping in for an extra 30 minutes, an hour by yourself scrolling TikTok in the morning, a solo trip to the gym in the afternoon—whatever you need to nurse the social hangover and feel less foggy. One way you could build in time for all this recharging by adopting the two-plans weekend, a concept that is exactly what it sounds like: Making only two set plans per weekend, and filling in the rest of the time with rest and irresistible impromptu invites.
Another way is to say no to some gatherings. “There’s no rule that says you have to attend 100 percent of everything you’re invited to,” Russiano said. The desire to be at every single group hang right now is understandable; if the past year taught us anything, it’s that chilling with friends in person is amazing, and turning opportunities down right now, just as we’re allowed to do it again, feels counterintuitive. But remember? Not all hangouts are as fun as you think they’ll be, and saying no in exchange for staying in and getting a decent night’s sleep is necessary sometimes.
If you simply can’t stomach saying no to a friend’s last-minute invitation to hit the park and drink beers from a cooler on Saturday, even though you know full well that you’ve been on a social bender and will wake up feeling emotionally drained on Sunday, that’s fine, too; ultimately, a social hangover is only a sign that you imbibed a little too hard on fun. Take some time to recover and recharge, and then get on back out there.
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