What to Do If Your People-Focused Job Completely Drains Your Social Battery

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But, as much as our culture tells us differently, self-care isn’t selfish. We all need it, and ”being honest about your priorities and needs is critical,” Willough Jenkins, MD, assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, tells SELF. Dr. Jenkins says she learned this the hard way: by trying to “have it all” as a high-achieving psychiatrist and mother, and neglecting herself as a result. Once she acknowledged she needed a change, without judging herself, she was able to stop trying so hard to live up to other people’s expectations, she says. Ultimately, that meant reducing her client load to find the balance she so desperately needed.

Of course, self-care looks different for everyone. But whether you’re taking a long-overdue vacation, say, or blocking out time to watch the new season of The Bear, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Prioritizing yourself only makes you better at all your other (personal and professional) roles in life.

Remember that not all social interactions are created equal.

When I’m spent from work, the last thing I want to do is socialize or call a family member or friend. That said, there’s definitely a difference in how I feel during interactions with certain people versus others: Some relationships are nourishing, and others are depleting. So it might be possible to enjoy grabbing a drink or going to the movies after work, even when you’re wiped, if it’s with the “right” people,” Brit Barkholtz, LICSW, a trauma therapist based in St. Paul, Minnesota, who specializes in stress management, tells SELF.

Barkholtz explains that she jokingly tells her closest friends they “don’t count as people.” She finds spending time with them restorative, not exhausting, and being aware of how she feels around these particular pals has allowed her to still choose to see them, even (or especially) on tough days when her instinct is to be alone.

Not sure which people are the “right” ones in your life? Similar to the to-do list check-in above, Dr. Zuckerman suggests doing an interpersonal inventory. Here’s how: Assess the give and take of your relationships—including friends, family, and colleagues—and figure out which ones leave you worse off (as in, they require a lot of emotional investment that zaps your energy, or they constantly trigger exhausting feelings like anger or defensiveness) and which give you a boost (you always feel supported, happier, and more fulfilled after you hang out with them).

Based on these results, you can selectively make plans with the loved ones who make you feel good, and potentially minimize (or even avoid) get-togethers with those who don’t. As Barkholtz says, socializing shouldn’t feel like another job. Reminding yourself of this, and carefully curating your inner circle, can make people-ing (after work and beyond) so much easier.

Consider “parallel play” activities.

There’s this thing that kids do called parallel play: They play together in the same room but don’t talk or even interact with each other. As it turns out, we can do that as adults too, and it might be a good solution for you if you’re looking for ways to connect with your favorite people in a less draining way.

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