Spending time alone is one of the best ways to recharge. It’s the perfect time for some self-reflection and for indulging in the things you truly enjoy.
For introverts – me, for example – alone time is especially crucial. We need those moments away from all the noise, or else we end up feeling drained.
That said, as amazing as solitude is, there’s such a thing as too much of it. Even the most introverted person can cross over from being at peace to feeling isolated if they spend too much time alone.
How do you know if you’ve been hiding yourself away for too long – and not in a good way? Fortunately, there are some telltale signs:
1) You’re talking to yourself…a lot
I’ll begin by saying that as an introvert, I often talk to myself. Sometimes, it’s my reflection in the mirror, other times, it’s just in my head.
While it might sound strange, it’s actually quite normal. In fact, one study states that a whopping 96% of adults engage in internal dialogue. And 25% even do it out loud!
So, when does it become a red flag?
It’s a little tricky, but I’d say…probably when you start having full-blown debates alone.
It’s one thing to be chatting with yourself about how heartstopping that book was, or how you’re excited to have sushi for dinner.
But it’s a different ball game when you get into the really deep stuff – answering questions you’d be better off asking a friend – that means you’re too much in your head.
And when that happens, you kind of lose balance. You could get fixated on your thoughts and even forget that there could be other perspectives outside of yours.
That last part is a benefit we get from conversations with others. We need different perspectives and social feedback to process thoughts and refine ideas.
Without those, you’re simply stuck in an echo chamber with yourself. And you might even show this next sign…
2) You feel disconnected
From your family. Your friends. The world.
I remember getting stuck in a traffic jam a few years ago. There I was, trapped in my little car on a major road, sandwiched by huge trailer trucks on all sides. Left, right, front, and back.
I literally had no idea what was happening. I moved when they moved and stopped when they stopped, but I couldn’t see beyond the container vans blocking my view.
What’s worse is that the jam went on for two full hours. I ended up feeling so isolated and disconnected from the world. My traffic playlist helped, but still, I wished I had somebody with me for that hellish ride.
That’s sort of how it feels when you’re spending too much time alone. You have a sense that everywhere around you, there’s movement. Things are going on. The world is spinning.
And you feel disconnected from it all, as if you’re in your own snow globe. But strangely, as disconnected as you feel, you might also be a bundle of emotions deep inside.
3) Your emotions are all over the place
One moment you’re laughing at a meme, and the next, you’re filled with sorrow. Or loneliness. Or anger.
According to the American Psychological Association, prolonged lack of social interaction has a huge toll on mental health and emotional management.
You see, interacting with others provides us with emotional support. Plus, we’re naturally wired to be social, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. That’s why connection is considered an essential human need.
You might enjoy engaging in solitary activities like painting, writing, or reading. And those are really helpful for recharging, in my experience.
But at some point, you’re going to feel like there’s a void. That’s your body telling you that it’s time to reconnect.
4) Your family and friends become concerned
This one is a huge sign, and you shouldn’t ignore it.
I once went through a phase where I just wanted to be left alone. I turned down invites to go out with friends. Whenever my family called or texted me, I wasn’t exactly welcoming and I always tried to keep conversations short.
I knew I’d pushed my alone time too far when my sister finally came over to my house and said, “What is up with you? Is something going on?”
So, if you hear something like this from your own loved ones, listen to them. They see what’s happening from an outside perspective, and that’s always useful to have when you’re too far up in your own head.
5) You overcompensate with online interaction
Social media can be quite deceiving. Sure, they make friendships and connections happen at the click of a button. I’ve made some really great and solid connections online myself.
But if that’s all you ever do, you might be missing out on the richness and complexities of real-life interactions. Nothing beats:
- Laughing out loud with friends
- Showing off some silly dance moves
- Seeing your friend’s overjoyed face when you tell them you got a promotion
- Feeling the warmth of human touch
Let’s face it – how much can texting, tweeting, or tapping the like button help with building authentic relationships?
They might be good enough for keeping you on people’s radar, but chances are, those actions merely end up in superficial connections.
Be honest – would you prefer a heart emoji or an honest-to-goodness hug? If you prefer the latter, you know what that means. Go out and get one!
6) Your social skills are rusty
This is something I’ve noticed in myself since I started working remotely.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my work setup. I love not having to commute, working with my dog beside me, being free to sneak in a midday workout…it’s got a lot of perks!
But – I sure miss being around people. I admit that the first few times I started going out again after a long period of isolation, I was a little awkward.
It felt like I’d forgotten how to actually talk to people. To make small talk and have it organically morph into a really interesting conversation.
So that’s it – if you feel flustered or anxious at even the most basic of social interactions, it’s a sign that you’ve been out of the game for too long.
Without regular interaction, our social skills can atrophy, much like muscles do from disuse.
7) Your sleep schedule is out of whack
Do you know why? That’s the loneliness speaking.
Several studies suggest that social isolation can cause a chain reaction – you start feeling lonely or depressed, which then leads to poor sleep quality.
Nowhere was this pattern more evident as during the Covid-19 lockdowns and quarantines. The dramatic increase in levels of social isolation led to changes in sleep patterns, especially in women.
So, take a look at your sleep habits. Do you seem to have lost all sense of time? Are you scrolling through social media or binge-watching shows till late, then find yourself unable to fall asleep when you finally lie down?
Or maybe you’re waking up multiple times through the night and find it insanely hard to fall back to sleep?
Your body and mind are more interconnected than you think. If you’re struggling with sleep, it might be more than an issue of bedtime routine. It might be wise to examine your social life as well.
8) You’ve stopped taking care of yourself
Aside from sleeping at odd hours, maybe you’ve been drinking or smoking too much? Or lounge around in pajamas all day and watch episode after episode on Netflix?
Whatever unproductive route you’ve chosen, it points to how you’ve become unmotivated. To the point of neglecting self-care.
And that’s a sign you’re becoming too isolated. Because essentially, you’re not seeing any need for basic self-care routines. You know, the things we do so we can look presentable to others.
Here’s the thing: self-care isn’t just for the outside world. You don’t do it solely for the sake of other people.
You do it as a sign that you love and respect yourself. In that sense, the lack of self-care is a reflection of how little you view yourself.
If your grooming habits have gone out the window, it might be a sign that your alone time is crossing into unhealthy territory.
So make the first move – call up a friend and ask them to meet you for coffee. That should get you out of your PJs and into the shower. It’s a great start!
With the world as noisy as it is, I understand why you want to take a break and be left alone. I have that need myself, so I regularly go on periods of solitude.
But like with anything else in life, the key is balance. Just as it’s not healthy to neglect quiet time, so is having too much of it and verging on isolation.
The good news is, it isn’t difficult to step out of your snow globe and reconnect with other people. Make a call, shoot your loved ones a message, and meet up with them.
Trust me, they’re just waiting to welcome you back into the real world!