Self Care

5 Causes of Introvert Hangovers and Introvert Burnout

February 26, 2023

I'm Jess. This blog is a collection of everything I've learned as I rebuilt my self-image from a burned-out-extrovert-wannabe to an at-ease-introvert-bookworm.
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By May of 2022, I’d been working on redefining my identity as an introverted person for over a year as part of my recovery from introvert burnout.

I was building a life that worked with my introversion instead of against it, and I was excited about helping introverted people going through what I’d just clawed my way out of.

A big chunk of my journey was spent recovering from the effects of 10+ years in advertising (an extroverted industry). I had experienced chronic burnout for over a decade.

I knew two things to be true: 1) While my environment had played a massive role in my experience, I was responsible for what I went through too. 2) I felt so alone.

I kept coming back to the same question: “Am I the only one?” Because, at the time, no one was talking about burnout or, more specifically, introvert burnout.

I knew my experience was unique to me and my context, but I wondered if others were experiencing similar things.

Connecting with other introverts became a top priority, and I was able to connect with over 30 introverts over the course of a month.

 We discussed our experiences as introverted people in extroverted industries (such as HR, marketing, PR) as well as our extroverted society.

While much of what was discussed is unique to each individual, there were 5 factors that consistently came up as pain points.

These factors not only cause discomfort but also stand in the way of living in alignment and contribute to introvert hangovers (and even introvert burnout).

The influence of extrovert bias, which is our society’s preference for extroverted traits, is evident in all five of these factors.

I share these insights in the hopes that introverted people may see themselves and feel less alone, as well as for extroverts to gain a deeper understanding of what introverts experience on a daily basis.

It’s estimated that ⅓ to ½ of the population is introverted, which means you know more introverts than you think. If this surprises you, it’s likely because the introverts in your life are pretending to be extroverted.

If you’re an introvert, you may be nodding your head in agreement. If you’re an extrovert, you may be wondering why.

Here’s a small peek at what’s churning beneath the surface, and the 5 factors that cause introverts the most discomfort on a daily basis.

Negative Definitions & Stories about Introversion

Introverts may perceive themselves as less than others and lacking the traits necessary for success (ie, extroverted traits) due to feedback from family, friends, employers, colleagues, and even popular media. Negative definitions or stories about introversion can evolve into intrusive thoughts like:

  • What’s wrong with me?
  • Why am I like this?
  • Why can’t I keep up?
  • My colleagues are better than me at speaking up, presenting, networking, etc.

As a result, introverts may compensate by pretending to be extroverted, and they are likely rewarded for it. This creates a draining cycle of misalignment that leads to mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.

Woman sits on floor, her hand in her hair, deep in thought.
Negative feedback about introverted traits and behaviors can contribute to introvert burnout.

Inability to Prevent Overstimulation

Introverts are encouraged to act like extroverts, down to how they interact with external stimuli. This can range from expectations like being constantly connected to IM and email to being placed in overstimulating physical scenarios like open office floor plans.

While this seems like “the norm” in corporate culture, a barrage of stimuli like notifications, background noise, and interruptions can drain an introvert’s energy faster.

Introverts may feel pressured to be as open and available to stimuli as their extroverted counterparts, and they may feel uncomfortable when it comes to setting limits for fear of retaliation or being seen as less interested or engaged.

Perceiving Rest as Optional

Rest is critical to introverted people. Rest allows the brain and nervous system to decompress and recharge. However, when introverts are susceptible to extrovert bias, rest may become optional because they are modeling extroverted coworkers and extroverted expectations. 

Scenarios like back-to-back meetings, multiple days of business travel, being “on” in front of clients for an extended period of time, or staying on top of ever-growing workloads make it difficult to find opportunities to rest and recharge during the week.

While time off is incredibly valuable to introverted people, it’s daily rest that makes a significant difference in an introvert’s daily experience.

Cup of coffee or tea with milk in the foreground while a woman works on her laptop in the background.
Overworking can be a factor in introvert burnout.

Trouble Setting & Enforcing Boundaries

Boundaries, especially in the workplace, may be difficult for introverts to set and enforce because they go against what’s perceived to be “successful” behavior.

Introverts may want to set boundaries when it comes to eating lunch alone, skipping social events, not being disturbed while in deep work, and taking time to process information before responding, among other scenarios. But they fear criticism, pushback, or retaliation.

They may have been referred to as antisocial in the past. They may have received negative feedback such as “you’re too sensitive” or even been mocked for asking for what they need, including additional time to process.

They may have even received feedback during performance reviews to be more friendly, outspoken, or agile despite their work performance.

Two women work outdoors.
Not being able to set and enforce boundaries, especially at work in extroverted industries, can contribute to introvert burnout.

Difficulty Self-Soothing

Self-soothing is an incredibly important tool for introverted people who may become stressed or overwhelmed by the workplace, or who may have experienced extrovert bias.

Knowing how to regulate emotions and reduce or manage physical symptoms can help prevent overstimulation or introvert hangovers.

However, self-soothing may be a challenge for introverted people who question their worthiness and/or who feel solely responsible for what they’re experiencing due to their introverted nature. 

They may also fear being perceived as “weak” in the workplace.

What Can Be Done?

In my experience, there are three main things to be done:

  1. Understand how extrovert bias has shaped your self-image and definitions of work ethic, ambition, and success.
  2. Adapt or create language that conveys what you need and want as an introverted person.
  3. Use Tiny Habits* to improve your daily experience by:
    1. Nurturing new positive thoughts that override the negative ones
    2. Creating systems to prevent overstimulation
    3. Building a routine for active rest
    4. Automating setting boundaries
    5. Building a self-soothing kit or toolbox

What are Tiny Habits for Introversion?

Tiny Habits are tiny behaviors that take less than 30 seconds.

Tiny Habit recipes use existing moments in daily routines as prompts for the tiny behaviors, and they are wired in quickly through intrinsic positive reinforcement. Tiny Habits have been proven to grow quickly due to the positive feelings they create.

Tiny Habits are safe, easy to implement, and easy to maintain even on hard days because they require little effort.

To learn more about how Tiny Habits for introversion can take you from drained to energized, connect with me.

More Articles About Introvert Burnout:

What Is Introvert Burnout: Why It Happens & How To Spot It

How To Recover From Introvert Burnout

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