The idea of a social battery has become a popular way to talk about one of the stresses of modern-day life. While it may be an accurate word for feeling drained, what does it really mean?
The term social battery is used to describe the energy you have for socializing. Though not a medical term, it aptly describes the feeling of exhaustion some people feel after a social event. Many might not recognize that their social battery is draining and just feel tired or irritated without realizing why. As we are all different, so are the levels of our social batteries.
People who are extroverts may not notice as much as introverts when their battery is running low. After a long weekend, some people may struggle to socialize during the week. They may want to switch off and recover. But is there a way to train our battery to make it last longer? Here, we’ll look at this and other things you need to know about a social battery.
Is the Social Battery Real?
A social battery is best described as a common metaphor for how one feels when drained emotionally from social activities. Humans interact for pleasure; some take from interactions, while others give. Some of us are the listening type and sit quietly, allowing others to do all the talking, but sitting quietly can drain one just as much as talking.
Although the concept does not refer to an actual psychological phenomenon, in research, it has been used to look at physical and mental fatigue in various contexts.
For instance, one study demonstrated that employees felt more exhausted in the evenings following stressful social situations at work. This fatigue was cumulative. By Friday, at the end of the work week, participants felt the most drained after high levels of social stress.
Researchers looking into these episodes made a correlation between prosocial traits and levels of burnout. Penner’s Prosocial Personality Battery (PPB) is a series of tests used to determine how prosocial an individual is, considering factors such as agreeableness, social empathy, and willingness to participate in public issues. Those who showed lower scores on the PPB test suffered higher levels of burnout and ‘battery drainage’ than colleagues who naturally exhibited a willingness to engage with others.
Although the PPB test measures how personable a person may appear, it does not account for introverted and extroverted personalities. In fact, more typically introverted traits such as shyness can make a person seem less agreeable, regardless of their actual inclination. For this reason, introverts may score lower on the PPB test and experience higher levels of social battery drainage.
Running on Empty
Michele Connolly, author of “How to Be an Introvert in an Extrovert World” explains that introverts have a smaller social battery than extroverts, so they grow more fatigued from social situations faster. But this is not to say that extroverts have unlimited social energy.
Avoiding socializing is very difficult in our society, as much of our time is spent with people through work, devices, or social gatherings. Running on empty is not an option. Compare your emotions to your physical body; you need to eat to have the energy to do anything. Emotions are the same, you have nothing to give if you are emotionally drained.
Everyone must recover and allow themselves time to get back to full battery, otherwise, you won’t have the energy to keep going. Social activities and outings can be like a workout for your social battery, so you need to work on it in order to build up a tolerance, just like going to the gym for your physical health. These are all part of good self-care practices.
Recharging and Training Your Social Battery
Recharging your social battery is vital, and there are many ways to choose from. Training yourself to help your battery from draining fast will help you to get through social occasions. Similarly, knowing what drains your social battery is crucial so you can prepare and find ways to get through draining events.
Everyone has a different level and tolerance for social activities, so get to know your own. Here are some ways that may help you to get through social occasions.
- Start with relaxation techniques. You can do many techniques in public, like counting in your head, taking deep breaths (for example with the 4-7-8 breathing technique), or practicing the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Alternatively, you can try low-impact exercises before or after a social event, like yoga or suitable yoga alternatives.
- Prepare beforehand. Have a relaxing bath with essential oils, and allow yourself plenty of time to prepare. Listen to calming music and have a warm drink to soothe yourself.
- Walking or hiking is a great way to recharge. Enjoying the peace and grounding benefits that nature can offer the chance to relax and calm yourself after difficult social situations. Exercise in any form can help you to recharge effectively by relieving bodily stress.
- Reading is an excellent escape for your mind. Immersing yourself in a good book will do wonders. To connect with nature at the same time, check out our list of ten best books about trees, 21 books about nature by BIPOC authors, or our top eight books about climate change.
- Art and crafts are a great distraction. Do a mini digital detox and allow your creative side to take over. The kinesthetic act of drawing, painting, knitting, or sewing can help you break away from troubling thoughts and recharge yourself.
- Try to have regular breaks for more extended events you can’t avoid. A quick breath of fresh air may help you get through the event. Try to focus on one conversation at a time and take a break after each conversation.
- Get to know what works best for you. How long can you socialize before you are drained, or how big or small a crowd will drain you? Do indoor events drain you more than outdoors? What occasions can you politely avoid to allow you to attend recovery?
It may be possible to increase your social battery capacity by either slowly increasing your time with others or by choosing social events that are important to you, but never go beyond what feels comfortable.
Some research regarding the so-called free trait theory shows that in certain situations, you can adopt traits that aren’t your norm in order to get through the situation.
Social Battery Takeaways
Although many assume the idea of a social battery is simply a figure of speech, there are real psychological and physical effects. Everyone has limits, and personal care should extend into the social world. This means taking care of your needs and using techniques to adapt to situations that make us uncomfortable.
While we can certainly try to avoid interactions that leave us feeling drained, that isn’t always possible. Understanding your social battery is about preparing and preventing reaching your limit. It is also about recovery and self-reflection.
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