The ‘social hangover’ is a post-lockdown phenomenon, and you’re probably experiencing it


“The romanticisation of our pre-COVID social calendars has made us forget just how draining socialising can be.”

POV: It’s the Monday after Melbourne’s first weekend of freedom, following the end of lockdown numero six (or seven? I lost count somewhere between the sourdough and tie-dye phase.) You’re in bed, feeling catastrophically emotional and unable to move. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a cocktail induced hangover?

While I do feel an inherent need to consume greasy food and become one with my couch for the remainder of the day, this is not a hangover brought on by one too many chilli margs. There is no amount of Berocca that can revive me from my post-weekend funk, for the symptoms of disarray that I’m feeling is instead thanks to the post-lockdown phenomenon known as the ‘social hangover’.

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It’s defined by Urban Dictionary as “the worn out, spent, or run-down sensation experienced after being around a lot of people. Some people even experience headaches and body aches similar to those associated with an alcohol-based hangover, even when they did not consume any alcohol to cause one”.

For the people of Melbourne, and those all over the world who have been plunged in and out of lockdowns like nobody’s business, daydreaming about better days, where we would one day be free to roam more than 15km from our house and eat IN cafés, ON chairs (burn picnic rugs, burn) was our life raft during a time of certified suckiness.

So, you best believe when daddy Dan announced that we were free to get on the beers as of Thursday 11.59pm, I was possessed by a fervent need to fill every minute of my social calendar to make up for lost time. You get a brunch! You get a beach day! You get a Sunday session!

While the more common side effect of lockdown thus far has been a universal sense of social anxiety, I’ve been repping that bad boy since 1995 and I was by all accounts ready and revving to kiss picnics goodbye and embrace the hard stuff (think friends, bars, frolicking in public spaces). But as I come to you live following a weekend of doing all of the things, I am feeling, emotionally, physically and spiritually dead.

After months of doing everything short of making an excel spreadsheet of all the fun things I wanted to do post locky-d (I did it in my phone notes, obvi), why do I now, after ONE weekend of socialising, feel the need to hibernate for the next 77 days?

The romanticisation of our pre-COVID, jam-packed social calendars has made us forget just how draining socialising can be. Throw in a cheeky 246 days of lockdown, and things like coordinating a cute brunch outfit, holding a conversation and being upright for an extended amount of time without a midday nap is now truly tough stuff.

After a long lunch with friends on Saturday, our group chat literally read as though we’d just completed a life-changing trek through the wilderness together, when all we’d really done is chat over a couple of Rueben’s. Despite feeling that I’d been hit by a truck after merely forming an outfit that wasn’t activewear, I persevered with my weekend plans. But now my desire to socialise has plummeted and I’ve got many destinations to hit with no gas left in the tank.

According to psychotherapist Jack Worthy, the social hangover that many of us are now experiencing is completely normal and expected following an extended period of social isolation. “Socialising is cognitively taxing. Most of the time we’re all socialising a bit and thanks to repetition this means we find it pretty easy. However, we’re all out of practice now, so when we socialise, we’re noticing how much cognitive energy it uses,” he explains.

We’re relearning how to exist in social situations after a year spent talking at our houseplants and pets, and wearing socks and sandals unironically. And to make matters worse, many of us have gotten a little trigger happy with our newfound freedom and overcommitted to plans that we now have no energy for. Give yourself a break for feeling like you’ve been on a three day bender for merely participating in a group conversation IRL – you’re just a little rusty!

The good news is that these social hangovers are only temporary. With a little social practice, the prospect of ordering a meal, or mingling with a cute stranger at a bar, will no longer give you hives. But until then, here are some top tips as told by the internet on how to best re-enter the world of bookings, bars and social hoorahs without needing two to three business days to recover.

Take it slow

Overbooking yourself is a one-way ticket to the social hangover of a lifetime and in the words of Pitbull, “believe me, been there, done that”. Instead, ease back in and take it one social event at a time. There is no pain quite like maxing your social meter with two events still on the agenda for the day.

Keep it small

It’s always quality over quantity, baby. Large group settings are breeding grounds for social hangovers. You’ve spent the better part of the last year interacting with a handful of people a day at most, throwing yourself into the deep end within a large group dynamic can be a sensory overload. Prioritise catching up with your nearest and dearest and gradually work your way back up to your outer circles.

Don’t put pressure on yourself

If you’re partial to a case of FOMO or suddenly feel guilty for not saying say yes to every plan that’s thrown at you post-lockdown, you may fall victim to overcommitting. Instead of pressuring yourself to make up for lost time, listen to your body and what it needs. Sometimes that may be getting legless at brunch with the girls, but sometimes it will be a day of binge-watching The Real Housewives in your underwear.

Recharge your social batteries

Take time to do the things you’ve come to love in the slow lane of life. Between social events, schedule some time to revisit the guilty pleasures of lockdown. Sourdough. Tie-dye. Pottery. Pick your poison! To my fellow socially hungover mortals, remember, the time will come when you can again work it, put your thing down, flip it and reverse it. Until then, stay hydrated and well, besties.

For more on how to deal with social hangovers, try this.

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