If you’re an introvert, then you’re probably familiar with something I call introvert overload. It’s the feeling that everybody wants a piece of you. The sense that you just can’t get enough space from people. The deep, soul-longing for solitude.

I think of it as a kind of psychological claustrophobia, like the walls are closing in and you can’t. quite. breathe.

You might even feel guilty too, because some of the people from whom you want space are your loved ones. Maybe even your spouse. Maybe even *appalled, judgemental gasp* your children.

Seriously, what kind of monster are you? What kind of two-headed, scaly, satan-beast?

In fact you are a garden-variety introvert monster. Single-headed, unscaled, 100% satan-free.

Also known as a person who, compared to extraverts, has a higher baseline level of arousal, and uses more mental resources in scanning and processing external stimuli.

Which makes you more sensitive to light, noise, and especially people. Which causes you to become easily overstimulated. Which makes you quick to tire of all the stimulation and desperate to retreat to a sanctuary where you can turn down the psychological volume.

In other words, the monstrosity inside you way your brain works makes you prone to experience introvert overload.

"Compared to extraverts, [introverts have] a higher baseline level of arousal, and use more mental resources in scanning and processing external stimuli"

Introvert Overload: When You Hate Everybody Feel All Peopled Out

I’ve become good at recognising small clues that I’m heading into the throes of introvert overload. Subtle, tiny hints give it away.

Like when a stranger comes up and asks me a question without saying ‘excuse me’ and suddenly I’m filled with a homicidal rage and I begin planning how I might murder them and cleverly dispose of their body. I’ve watched all of The Wire and The Sopranos so my fantasies are both detailed and filled with authentic, possibly vaguely racist, dialogue.

Or if someone tries to do something nice for me but they’re in my space while doing the nice thing and mentally I’m saying, This guy.

That’s when I know I’ve reached maximum people level and the sirens are screeching and I need to find a way to regain my sense of equanimity.


But how?

What would be awesome is if introverts could recharge like Seven of Nine – just plug in to a Borg alcove and power down and regenerate. No one would be offended. No explanation would be needed. No questions of What’s wrong? would have to be fielded. We wouldn’t feel compelled to apologize for needing what to us is as essential as sleep or air or chocolate.

But where do we introverts find our introvert regeneration alcoves?

Can't talk, regenerating. How else do you think I sustain this level of hotness?

Finding Your Introvert Sanctuary

Extraverts might regenerate with social events, drinks with friends, parties, team sports, adventurous activities, something stimulating. These choices might help them relax, unwind, forget their troubles, feel good.

But for us introverts it can be more complicated.

Especially because we can’t just go to something, we also need to get away from people.

Especially if years of being introverts in an extravert world have made us think we should feel refreshed by going out or hanging with friends. Or doing the things we see other people doing to unwind. Things that only make us crave space more.

For example, a while ago I thought a massage would be a good way to refresh myself, so I scheduled an appointment. But the massage dude kept chatting, being friendly, and constantly asking really irritating, intrusive questions like Is this pressure ok? Can you turn over now please? I spent the whole time clenching everything in an attempt to silently communicate For the love of Pete PLEASE STOP TALKING. It was horrendously unrelaxing.

At the end he told me I was very tight and should book in for regular massage appointments so I could loosen up more. :O

Answering incessant questions with interpretive dance is a sound strategy but always stretch first so you don’t pull something.

You Wanna Go Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Another odd thing is, when I hit introvert overload and crave space, sometimes I perversely want to be with people – but people who don’t want anything from me. People who don’t know me and won’t make noise around me or ask questions of me or expect any kind of interaction from me. And, as someone who worries about everyone I love, people I don’t have to worry about.

And you know where I find these people?

In books and on TV. These are two of my very favourite ways to recharge and feel human again. The relationships I’ve forged with fictional characters are surprisingly strong. In my head Lorelei Gilmore is and probably always will be my best friend. And I’ve never really gotten over the loss of the deep and powerful connections I made with the gang in Buffy.

What also works for me is nerdy stuff like learning French and doing the crossword.

What all these ways of recharging have in common is they allow me to be alone and enjoy solitude, while also filling my mind with pleasant and engaging distraction so I’m not overthinking or ruminating or fantastrophizing.

How To Recharge If You’re An Introvert – Dos And Don’ts

Okay, so how about you? What are some good ways for you to recharge when you’re suffering from introvert overload?

Here are some tips…

  • Do try to schedule regular introvert-battery-recharging sessions so you always have a little oasis of solitude to look forward to. Maybe one day someone will invent the All-Peopled-Out Safe Word App, but for now you need to be proactive about making time.
  • Don’t expect conventionally relaxing activities to work for you. Massages, facials, and spa treatments in particular can leave you trapped in a chit-chat vortex from which there’s no escape unless you’re prepared to run screaming from the room dressed in paper slippers and a towel.
  • Do look for activities that give you pleasure. I complete the crossword each morning while I have breakfast and it’s crazy how happy it makes me. You don’t just want alone time, you wantpleasurable alone time.
  • Don’t leave it too long between mini battery-charging sessions. I read every single night in bed. See the next section for ideas for short recharging spells.
  • Do negotiate with loved ones for the time you need. I’ve asked my husband to spend alternate Fridays in his co-share office so I can work at home or do whatever is on my agenda all alone. And ask from a place of self-acceptance, not apology.
  • Don’t feel guilty. You’ll be a happier, calmer, better friend/spouse/parent/relative/workmate when you’re no longer feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated from introvert overload.

Don’t expect conventionally relaxing activities to work for you. Massages, facials, and spa treatments in particular can leave you trapped in a chit-chat vortex from which there’s no escape unless you’re prepared to run screaming from the room dressed in paper slippers and a towel.

16 Introvert Battery-Charger Ideas

Here are some ideas you could try:

  1. Watch a favourite TV show
  2. Listen to an inspiring playlist
  3. Treat yourself to your favourite cake at a cafe
  4. Write in a pretty notebook
  5. Plan a goal or project
  6. Listen to an audiobook
  7. Do a crossword puzzle
  8. People-watch at a cafe
  9. Go to a movie by yourself
  10. Take a drive and sing along with the radio
  11. Sip coffee or tea while appreciating a moment alone
  12. Do a mindfulness practice
  13. Feel grateful
  14. Learn something
  15. Read a novel
  16. Go for a walk

Got more introvert battery-charger tips or ideas? Please share them in the comments.