Everyone says that getting outside, being around people, and not isolating is the answer to when you are feeling down and not yourself. It’s not bad advice for most of us. During this quarantine, we need ways to connect, feel normal, and improve our mood. But in some of the women I’ve spoken to that have to face new experiences with kids and husband at home, it’s actually not helping. Having more people to talk to is actually making some of us more cranky and irritable.
My husband has been quarantined due to traveling, so he’s been home for almost 3 weeks. My kids have been home longer. To me, it feels like it’s been 100 years. On top of it, this house just keeps getting smaller. Every piece of real estate that I considered a peaceful spot has been overrun by my kids, dogs, and husband. We are working from home, schooling from home, and spending all our hours at home. On top of it, I was let go from my job and then my side gigs of walking dogs slowly ended. Lately, it just seems like being around people has actually brought up anger issues and moodiness.
The other day my husband suggested we go on a walk together. We took the kids out and walked 2.5 miles around a lake. SO. MANY. PEOPLE. I’ve been struggling to want to go outside or be anywhere other than my bed, but I decided to follow the advice that being outdoors would help me. NOPE. We walked around the lake and I literally wanted to rip the bell off this kid’s bike. I told my husband I am not Pavlov’s dog, so if that kid rings his bell at me again, I was gonna lose it.
That wasn’t the end of my rant or my bad mood. I started complaining about the lady who bathed in perfume, the guy walking his dog who decided the sidewalk was his dog’s personal litter box, and the little girl coughing. And not one person was obeying the 6 ft. distancing rule. More F words.
As someone who has high levels of empathy, patience, and regard for humans, I felt like someone had taken over my body. Why was I crabby and moody and about 2 seconds away from being on an episode of “America’s Most Wanted”?
It wasn’t until later that day I realized that I didn’t need people. What I really needed was to be away from everyone. I needed my own space. So that’s what I did. I shut the door to my bedroom for a few hours and told everyone I needed a break.
This especially affects people who are introverted (I am INFJ). We just can’t handle the stimulation. We need quiet, rest, and relaxation to improve our mood and help us get back to center. If we don’t get it, we turn into a version of ourselves that resembles Frankenstein’s monster. We need time to recover so we can continue being empathetic, helping souls that we usually are.
Mood and Overstimulation
While extroverts find it rewarding to socialize, surround themselves in crowds and noise, and seem to adapt well to their environments, they can get tired of being around people too. Introverts, though, really are affected a lot more by too much of anything. It has to do with dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger that sends signals) and plays a role in how we feel pleasure. Without dopamine, we couldn’t think or plan. We wouldn’t find things interesting. Turns out, introverts don’t need as much of it.
One of my favorite blogs about introversion, Introvert Dear, explains it best:
Why do introverts care less about rewards? Enter dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Found in the brain, dopamine has been dubbed the “feel good” chemical because it helps control the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. It enables us to notice rewards and take action to move toward them….Dopamine energizes extroverts to pursue rewards. As a result, they can better tolerate — and often overcome — the tiredness that comes with socializing. They just don’t feel the same level of mental and physical fatigue that introverts experience.Introvert Dear
Basically introverts get their fill of social time and then need to step away to recharge.
So, how do you know if you are over-stimulated or need to take a break from people? Here are some signs:
1 – Everything is getting on your nerves
Doesn’t matter what it is: the TV, the dog barking across in the neighbor’s yard, the sound of your husband chewing food, the way your clothes hang on you….it’s all annoying. This normally wouldn’t bother you, but since you are overstimulated and are experiencing a “people hangover”, you find yourself having a meltdown of massive proportions. Because everything is obnoxious, you feel moody, snappy, and mean. You literally feel like you have only one nerve left and everyone is getting on it.
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Printable cards that you can use as reminders. Print on cardstock and cut out!
2 – You feel tired
You just want to sleep all day. You struggle to wake up in the morning and you dread having to do normal things. You feel exhausted even by small things like having to go to the store or sitting down to concentrate on something. You start projects and give up after 5 minutes because your brain hurts. It’s just too much to take in. You try to compensate with caffeine or maybe even taking a nap, but you still feel tired. You feel you must be permanently exhausted.
Sometimes you zone out and lose your train of thought too. On top of it, you might find yourself saying the wrong words or trying to communicate and it comes out all wrong. Everything just feels like work.
3 – You feel unhealthy
You eat all the wrong foods and don’t care if you are eating well. You stay up too late or drink too much caffeine, so you can’t sleep. When you do fall asleep, you feel restless. It’s almost like your body can’t handle anything. If you don’t realize you are overstimulated, you will continue to overstimulate yourself with people, food, lack of sleep, and so on. Even though you are extremely annoyed with most things, since you can’t place why you feel that way, you continue on with “business as usual” further causing more issues for yourself.
You might also experience physical symptoms like headaches, stomach problems, or other unexplainable ailments. Overall, you feel unwell or sick, but don’t know why. Your mood continues to tank.
4 – You are depressed, anxious, or both
If you are burned out by socializing or have sensory overload, it’s common to start to feel cynical. You probably start off thinking negatively and then end up feeling so down you can’t pull yourself out of it. Or, you might get anxious about how you feel because you know you aren’t feeling like yourself. This isn’t the REAL you. This is someone else. The more you are around people, stimulation, and noise, the more this causes your mood to dip.
5 – You just want to be alone
The biggest sign is probably the one you need to listen to. You want to be alone. You start hating other people or feeling like they all need to go away. The tiredness, feeling unhealthy, and getting annoyed already makes you feel exhausted, so you long for a place where no people are and there is no TV, music, or even bright lights around. You want to sleep, get away from everyone and everything, and just enjoy your own company….quietly.
How to Like People Again
Just because you are feeling like this, doesn’t mean you hate people. It just means you need a break. So the best thing you can do is take that break and nourish your wellbeing and mood.
- Take a nap or get more sleep
- Dim the lights and shut the shades
- Turn off anything with noise (TV, electronics)
- Try to find the quietest place you can
- Take a bath and cover your eyes for 20 minutes (if soft music helps doesn’t bother you, this might help too)
- Spend time reading, journaling, art, or some other enjoyable hobby
- Laugh. I personally like these little hedgehog videos – they are my spirit animal.
While most people would do well to find a way to get outside, socialize, or participate in a group setting, some of us might become extremely crabby or even depressed after being around people and stimulation. The best thing we can do is listen to our bodies, understand ourselves, and know when it’s time to give it a rest. Then when we are feeling up to it, connect in meaningful ways that promote our mood and well-being.