Autism, anxiety, Strategies

Tips for avoiding social overload

Since writing about my own experience of a social hangover, I have found out that I am not the only one to experience this and have spent a lot of time thinking about it. This is the physical and mental shutdown that I can experience after times of extreme social demand, where I am left struggling to face the world around.

At this time of year, the likelihood of social hangovers are much greater as everyone

Here is what I am trying to avoid and deal with social hangovers

  • Identify social demanding situations. I now am actively working out what situations I find difficult, and thinking of ways that I can achieve the same outcome in a different way. For me, this means avoiding free-flow group discussions where possible and providing my input before / after the discussion
  • Enlist a social ally. Finding someone who I can tell about the things I find challenging and the support I need to get through it. They can then be my social support to get me through situations I find demanding and avoid compounding difficult situations by unintentionally adding to the demand when I am struggling. I have found this has been the greatest help, as I no longer feel that same level of fear that I did when I felt I was in it on my own.
  • Find out what to expect. A much as possible, taking the time to find out what is going to happen so that there are no unexpected surprises. This way I can process things ahead of time, and work out my responses. I find it much easier to cope with social situations when I know what to think
  • Be selective with social events. For me, this means saying no to invites to many social events, especially when there are a large number of socially demanding situations looming. Previously I would try to do it all - now I realise that I need to limit myself otherwise I will end up not enjoying anything and I will end up in a state where I can't deal with anything
  • Take time-out to detox. Ensuring that I balance the socially demanding situations with downtime and activities that help self-regulate my social anxiety. For me this is putting time aside for activities that help to relax me - like gardening, listening to music, watching telly, cataloguing my photo collection and more recently Pokemon TCG.
  • Have an emergency plan. Socially demanding situations can't always be managed or avoided, and sometimes the lure of some situation is so great that the risk of a social hangover is something that I am willing to take on. I have people ready to step up when it all gets too much an I am in danger of self-saboutaging as my anxiety gets out of control. I also know the signs that it is time for me to remove myself from the world in order to regain my composure and top up on my resilience.

After 40 odd years, I am still learning about my own social limits and what it takes to help me through socially demanding situations. These tips have started to make a change for me, and I am sure that there are many more to be added to the list. I have no desire to become a social butterfly, but with some careful planning and management, I do hope to reduce the frequency and impact of my social hangovers

Author image

About Helen Needham

Helen is the originator and founder of Me.Decoded. A passionate advocate for Neurodiversity, - diagnosed as autistic in her 40's after a lifetime of feeling like she was on the outside looking in.
  • England