What To Do When You’re Trying To Make Friends & Your Social Battery Hits Overwhelm And Shutdown

Making friends when your social battery is overwhelmed and depleated.

For some people with ADHD, being social fills up their battery. Yet, for others, it drains them of their energy. But the truth is that for almost everyone, reading social cues, trying to pay attention to conversations, coping with sensory bombardment and managing situations that are taxing on your brain are exhausting.  

When someone wants to make friends, there are often consequences to reaching out to new people. You may be someone who over commits to things when you’re really quite busy. Or, you may say “yes” to an event when you really would rather stay home and veg on the couch. Or you may really want friends to the point that you do things to please others that you’re really not interested in doing.

The pull to making new friends is very strong. Especially, when you feel lonely, isolated, bored or simply aware that you want new people in your life. Often, the tug to make new friends can be fueled by a burst of social frenzy only to be followed by a period of social hibernation. 

It can feel like a feast or famine. 

Additionally, many neurodivergent individuals are prone to burnout and social exhaustion. Interacting with the world can be exhausting. Part of this is because the skills required to interact with new friends and in new social settings are often fast paced. They involve a lot of brain functions including memory, executive function skills and 

As you consider the pull to making new friends, it’s important to have a plan to handle things when your social battery hits empty. Knowing that making friends can be tiring and draining is an important part of being able to sustain the process long enough to develop a genuine friendship.

Here are the 6 Skills I Recommend to Recharge Your Energy & Your Social Battery As You Work On Making New Friends

  1. Know what recharges your battery- The key here is knowing for yourself (and everyone is different) what charges your social battery and what drains your social battery. Do you feel better after spending some time alone, with a treasured pet, or out in nature?  Do you feel more energized after listening to a quick podcast, reading a book or binge-watching your favorite show? Do you feel recharged after a few nights at home doing your “regular routine” or after spending some time exploring something new? It’s important to remember that this isn’t about being an introvert or extrovert, but if you know where you lean on those scales, they will give you a few clues about what works well to recharge your battery and what drains you of your energy.
  2. Have a plan to recharge your battery. Once you know what fuels you up, you want to build into your routine some time to get back on track. If being social is stressful for you, what can you do before heading out to meet friends to help you feel energized and what can you do when you return to fill up your tank? This can include things like exercise, a nap, listening to music or an audio book, taking a walk outside, coloring or meditation. Having a routine that respects your internal needs is a way to both love yourself and recharge your battery so your social hibernation period isn’t longer.
  3. Know what is energizing for you and what is draining. It’s also important to pay attention to what environments, situations and groups that are tougher for you and provide less of the benefit in terms of connection and belonging. As you’re working on making new friends, being in places and with people that are “easier” is empowering vs places that are more challenging which are less likely to keep you motivated and engaged.
  4. Set realistic expectations of yourself. It’s easy to try to say yes to everything and to imagine you are going to be different than you have been in the past. But the fact is that some situations may be challenging for you. Rather than saying yes or no to everything, it’s better to be realistic with yourself. When you encounter something or someone new, ask yourself these three questions: Does this interest you? Do you want to do this activity? Does this serve your personal goals? (When you get a “yes” you know the person/activity matches your friendship goals.)
  5. Offer an alternative – Don’t feel you have to accept every social offer sent your way. If you were to accept everything, it would likely be too draining. Rather than cocooning away and not taking part at all, propose an alternative. If you know that an environment is difficult to navigate and that it is going to push all your sensory buttons, perhaps it is not the best place to be social. Where else can you go together? Is there another activity that works? Weigh out the benefits and offer an alternative plan. 
  6. Protect yourself– If you must go somewhere that is triggering, have a plan to take care of your own needs. Perhaps arrive with a buddy. Or arrive later or earlier so you make your presence known but you’re not locked in to the whole event. You can even plan to stay ONLY until things are at a tipping point. When you’re bombarded with sensory stimuli it can lead quickly to fight, flight or freeze and that makes it hard to pay attention to social cues and read the room. Take steps to protect yourself like lessening auditory triggers with earphones, choosing seats out of the fray, and going at times with less traffic, noise and people to prevent feeling overwhelmed.

And one final suggestion…

Before You Cancel Plans With A Prospective Friend, Figure Out Your Social & Friendship Goals

Saying yes and being in pain is no way to live. But, some of us have a tendency to say no to everything and then to feel lonely and left out.  Ask yourself what you want from your friends? Do you want people you can open up to and share your deepest secrets with? Or do you just want friends to hang out and have fun with? Do you like being around a lot of people or just a few?

Knowing what you want from your friends helps you understand who different people are meant to be in your life. That little piece of information is what you need in order to set healthy expectations around what your goals are for finding new friends in your life.

Before you cancel plans, think about how the activity fits into your relationship with the other person and your budding friendship. If the activity is something special like a wedding, then you might consider going. 

It’s a one-time event and has a fixed start and end time so you know what you’re committing to. 

But, if you’re being asked to join a hiking club and you would rather not spend every Sunday morning hiking, then it’s wise to say no because you won’t really enjoy it or want to stay committed to an activity you dislike. 

It’s a slippery slope to please other people when you’re trying to make friends. There’s nothing wrong with compromise or trying new things, just look at the finer details to be sure what you’re committing to.

Making friends isn’t easy, especially as we get older.

And people with neurodivergence/ADHD may have other considerations on their mind as they step back out into the friendship fray. What I can tell you is that if you know yourself, respect your needs and you plan ahead, making new friends is absolutely possible. I know, I’ve done it myself.

Need help, please reach out.  

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