Between glamorous talks of “the roaring 20s” or the famed 21st birthday bash that comes with the expectation of drinking cocktails with your friends long into the night, there can be a lot of pressure to spend your free time constantly surrounded by others as a newly turned adult. Struggling to balance both having a social life while creating time for yourself to recharge is real, and if you’re anything like me, the idea of going to a packed club seems highly unappealing and overstimulating, but fear not! There are plenty of ways to have fun in your twenties that do not involve being drenched in sweat at a crowded party or bar. For my fellow individuals who are more sensitive to stimuli and need ample time to quietly recharge, here are some of my go-to strategies that have allowed me to let both my outgoing and more reflective sides thrive simultaneously as an almost 22-year-old:
1) Invite friends for a night in
When going out for a night of drinks and dancing feels like it might be too much, pick up the phone and invite some friends over! This creates a "win-win" situation in balancing social activity with staying in the comforts of your own home. Whether it's a movie, spa, charcuterie, karaoke, or craft night, the opportunities for hosting friends are endless. What's better than laughing the night away with friends while in cozy pajamas painting canvases and feasting on some Brie? Even if this seems a bit out of your social realm, you can even invite just one friend over at a time and go from there. I love this option personally because of the flexibility and freedom it provides and how much you can really customize the experience!
2)Explore new places
What's that one place you have always wanted to go but never had the chance to? Well, now's your time to explore it! Whether it's visiting a friend in a different state, backpacking the Swiss alps, or maybe just trying the new Thai place down the street, exploring new places can widen your perspective and allow you to talk with others without getting too socially exhausted. You can also fully participate in these activities alone, which can build confidence when requesting help, making an appointment or reservation, or even just asking for the check or how much something costs.
3) Spend time with people who allow you to recharge
For people who can be easily overwhelmed by others, spending time with like-minded people who you can relate to is a solid option for recharging your social battery. With some of my closest friends, we can sit in silence for hours doing work or other tasks without it being awkward, and there is never any pressure to fill any silences that may arise. Being mindful of who you spend your time with can boost your energy levels and mood, and sometimes, writing out a list of your personal values can be key in identifying your relationship priorities. Reflect on who makes you feel refreshed and uplifted after you spend time with them, and then give those friends a call and ask them out to coffee!
4) Designate "me times” throughout the week
Before each week begins, scheduling days throughout the week for “me times” can help you recharge while reaching your weekly goals. Designating one or two specific times during the week (or even daily like I’ve done) will allow you to be more organized, while also creating necessary downtime for yourself. Whether it is using your go-to exfoliator or engaging in movement, pinpointing what relaxes you most can make the time more meaningful and enjoyable. While admitting you need a break can be difficult at times, setting time aside for stress-relieving activities that you love instills a sense of personal responsibility in achieving the best health possible.
5) Step out of your comfort zone at least once per week
Whether it is trying a new hobby or reaching out to a new person, there are plenty of ways to confront your comfort zone without taking it too far. You don’t have to limit yourself to once a week and can gradually build up your stamina, starting with small, realistic tasks. Brainstorming both short- and long-term goals can help you stay on track in achieving them, providing a sense of pride, confidence, and accomplishment. Really take the time to figure out what is most meaningful for you and don’t forget to celebrate even the seemingly small steps!
6) Join (or create) a special interest group or club
Whether it's rock-climbing, reading, performing, or knitting Bob Ross blankets, there is quite a likely possibility that someone in your general area has similar passions. There are plenty of Facebook groups and ways to meet people with like-minded interests and find groups through social media (safely) or through your community or college/university. If your town has limited options, you can opt to create your own or even get creative using a virtual platform! During the pandemic, I channeled my passions of live music and emceeing by organizing open mic nights via Instagram live and was able to build my own special interest community through that, meeting plenty of lovely people. Even for technologically challenged folks like me, the sky's really the limit!
7) Set realistic goals and compromise
As someone who is easily overstimulated by crowds and loud noises, I have found goal-setting affirmations to be incredibly helpful when faced with the decision to stop playing online Scrabble in bed and go socialize with friends. When faced with the dilemma of going out, some frequently used favorite mantras of mine include, "I'll do my work for the bulk of the day so I can go out to the movies later. Whichever I decide to do is okay and does not define me" or "I will try going to the club for a half hour, and then I will reevaluate to see how I am feeling. If I decide to leave, this does not make me a bad person or friend by honoring my boundaries and trying my best." Checking in with yourself and ensuring your comfort levels is essential in having a great time and will prevent you from being trapped in unsafe, uncomfortable situations. Reciting these out loud or writing them down can help not only muster up the motivation to go but is also validating to the people around you that you care about spending time with them. Be open minded, but also know your limits and set boundaries when needed.
8) Go on little adventures
While being out for longer periods of time might be a challenge, get creative with some small-scale adventures and excuses to get out of the house! Whether it's a quick drive or bike ride to the library or exploring the nature trail behind your house, activities like these will allow you to interact with others, but on your terms and for as short or long as you would like and ensures a balance.
9) Always have a backup plan and listen to your body
Similar to #7, setting these goals also pairs well with having an "escape" plan if social anxieties and feelings of anxiety set in. Prior to when your plans are taking place, write out a detailed plan with ideas of how to handle the situation and cope if things turn sour. Preparing a plan in advance can help alleviate stress and validate your feelings in case something goes wrong or if you are feeling uneasy. Considering different factors of what to say, where to go, and which situations may prompt negative feelings can make all the difference and limit feelings of shame and guilt if you do have to remove yourself from what is going on. It is also okay to take breaks and come back to a situation after stepping away for a little while! Being aware of how your body responds to anxiety-inducing situations is another great way to gauge when and if it is time to leave or spend some time alone to self-regulate.
10) Pat yourself on the back for how hard you are trying
FOMO is real, peer-pressure is real, and navigating increased opportunities to socialize as a young adult while balancing relaxation and work can be quite difficult. However, you deserve to be proud of yourself for balancing it all amongst the chaos that is your 20s. Remember that there are always options out there and that you're doing the best that you can! To my 20-somethings who possess both outgoing and introverted traits and have difficulty expressing both sides of themselves, I see you, I hear your struggles, and you are so valid.