Being around people, particularly in crowds and/or in the middle of the city is always a challenge. The past week presented quite a few such challenges for me.
I try to balance having a social life and going to work with needing down time and quiet as well as I can. For a while that meant I’d say no to pretty much any social gathering with 5+ people in any sort of public place. But that’s not really a good way to go through life, and I discovered that on the rare occasion I did say yes, I did often end up having a good time though I’d be exhausted afterwards.
So I’ve concluded that I should say yes to things more often, because I do enjoy spending time with friends and colleagues, but I need to prepare a little. Some things I find useful:
- Arranging it so that I can leave when I feel like it. As I don’t have a driver’s license this is not always possible, though in the Netherlands you can fortunately rely on public transport and/or your bike in most cases. If I know that I can leave when I’ve had enough social interaction I end up enjoying it more and worrying less about it beforehand.
- Less often possible/acceptable: having something or somewhere to withdraw to. For instance a book or a garden. Now, at most parties it’s not really socially acceptable to pull out a book, but maybe there’s a slightly quieter room where you can withdraw for a little bit, or even somewhere you can go outside if it’s not too cold.
- Creating a smaller group at big gatherings. This is pretty common and accepted already, so it’s usually pretty easy to group up with one or two others and have a slightly quieter chat somewhere than be in the middle of the throng. It usually also means more meaningful and rewarding conversation.
- Knowing what the food situation will be like. There are multiple reasons why this is very helpful to me. I’m a former anorexic and former fat girl, who’s at a healthy weight for the first time quite a few years. I also try to eat vegetarian most of the time, though I do eat fish and will very occasionally eat other meat. So for instance if I’m going to a party and I know there’s only going to be some fried snacks, I’ll try to have something healthy to eat before I go, or plan to have something healthy afterwards. I’ll probably still sample the party food but I’ll not be “at the mercy of it”.
- This one’s not so healthy, but: alcohol. It helps me to relax and often helps filter out the noise of both people and things around me for a bit. I do try to moderate my intake though, and it’s not like I can’t enjoy a social gathering without booze. That being said I did have a very tough time at a good friend’s wedding a few years back where I knew no one, there was no alcohol AND I was dependent on a ride back from another party guest.
- Planning for quiet time after social engagements. I learned this the hard way. Last year my sister and her boyfriend came to visit. They stayed from I think Wednesday to Sunday evening. Now, they’re fantastic people whom I love and they’re very easy-going, but nevertheless having them over meant I pretty much had no alone time for 4,5 days straight. And then on Monday I went in to work… I was so extremely grumpy and fed up and just hated everyone – like, on sight. Just because they existed near me.So, I’ve learned that if I have an intense social situation for a few days I should probably plan time off. Which is actually why I have a day off from work today.
In the past week I’ve had 3 social engagements, which is quite a bit above average for me. It was even supposed to be 4, but I was sort of relieved that one of my friends was sick (sorry!) so she had to cancel and I got a bit of a breather.
On Wednesday after work we had leaving drinks for a colleague of mine who I care a lot about, so I really wanted to be there. It was just 6 of us at a pub near the office, and these people are some of my favourite current and former colleagues whom I also consider friends. Since it was a smallish group and I knew everyone, I had a really fun time, and the pub didn’t get too crowded or loud either. I had some nice chats with people and way too many beers… It was just one of those rare nights where the beers just sort of kept coming and I didn’t really think about it because I was too busy having fun. I only got home at 00:30, could barely walk straight and had to work the next day. So, not ideal. But even though I was incredibly hung over on Thursday I still think it was worth it. My colleague is moving home to Oz for personal reasons and I don’t know when I’ll get to see him again, so it was worth giving him a proper send-off. And I went home early and to bed early on Thursday, and woke up on Friday feeling fabulous.
Friday night was a work party, which I would normally have skipped, but said colleague had his last day and I thought it would be nice to join for a bit. With Wednesday’s hangover fresh in mind, I had a moderate amount of wine (even though the drinks were free) and made sure to drink water with it. I stood in a group with 2-3 others and just had a nice chat, and I left early.
Since my Saturday plans fell through I was able to have a quiet day at home, which sadly didn’t leave me much more well rested for Sunday’s high tea with the in-laws. I kept waking up and dreaming about being there and about trains getting delayed etc. I woke up early and grumpy. But, it was the last item on the agenda.. This one entailed travelling for hours by train to a noisy hotel to have a mediocre high tea with 11 in-laws. I would have skipped it if I could have, but.. well, for more on this see my review of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k. :-p It ended up being OK as all our 7 (!) trains were on time, and the event itself lasted about 3 hours. After we finished our food and were sitting around chatting, I pulled out my crocheting. Which thankfully the in-laws seemed to deem eccentric and slightly fascinating rather than rude or anti-social. It’s not like I didn’t still participate in the conversation. But it helped ground and relax me with the constant buzz of people around me.
After we came home we had a very quick bite to eat and then headed out to the movies. I only managed that one as I knew I’d have a day off today, AND we’ve been wanting to see Passengers for a long time and it’s probably the last week it’s playing. Since it’s been on for a while the theatre was pretty quiet and the movie was quite enjoyable and not very taxing.
I went to bed relatively early last night as well, completely knackered, and I slept in this morning. Today I’m only doing good for me stuff: getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy, catching up on blogging, reading, and limiting social interaction to a minimum. I should be ready to face the world again tomorrow. 😉
In short, I feel like the most important parts to being an HSP and still having a social life are planning, balance and prioritising.