How I Survive Lindy Hop Events as an Introvert

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Cats, as everyone knows, are the ideal social recharging tool.

I’m an introvert, which means that I am easily drained of energy by socially interacting with others. I think of my social energy like a gas tank that can be depleted, and when it’s empty, it needs to be refilled.

When I’m depleted of social energy, I feel physically and emotionally drained, like I just can’t handle another conversation with somebody. This depletion tends to make me feel tired, sad, upset, and anxious, and these feelings intensify if I continue to interact with others past the point where I have the energy to do so.

In this post, I want to talk about what depletes my social energy at dance events, and the specific strategies I use to recharge so that I can enjoy the event and, you know, not zone out or panic when people try to talk to me.

Classes. I love processing information and learning new things, but it tires me out when I have to do so while touching and/or talking to other people. Especially if classes are held on a hard concrete or tile floor, or if I’m doing four or more hours of classes in a single day.

Trying to talk to people while music is playing. I find it extremely difficult to hold a conversation if there’s loud background noise. Because of this, almost every conversation I have at a dance event is much more exhausting than a normal conversation would be.

Rushing to be somewhere. Anything that heightens my stress levels depletes my energy levels, like getting stuck in traffic when I’m trying to get to class on time. Having to deal with other people during or directly after a stressful event is a surefire way to make sure I don’t process the stress adequately, leaving me more exhausted later on.

Sensory overstimulation. Not all introverts experience this, but personally, I am extremely sensitive to sensory input, including light, sound, and touch. (This is part of the reason I actively request that people not touch me unless they have my attention first.) At a dance event, loud music, bright lights, disco balls, ambient conversation, and lots and lots of physical contact can leave me feeling completely overwhelmed.

Host housing. I love the fact that the Lindy Hop community is generous enough to provide out-of-town dancers with free housing, but sometimes that means that I get stuck in somebody’s living room with five or six other people and no way to get some alone time.

Change in schedule. As an introvert, I love routine – and at dance events, my daily routine gets completely destroyed. When I don’t have the structure of my usual schedule to rely on, I can feel depleted and overwhelmed much more easily.

So if dance events are essentially a minefield of anxiety-inducing events that make me want to crawl into a hole, how do I deal? Why do I keep growing my skills as a DJ, only to get booked at increasingly large and overwhelming events?

The main reason is that I am absolutely in love with jazz music and dancing, and it’s really important to me to continue to express my love for those things and stay involved with a community that values them as much as I do. So, here are the things I do to help myself recharge while I’m at a dance event.

Active self-monitoring. I pay close attention to how I’m feeling and how I’m reacting to others. Keeping track of how I’m responding to my environment is like a first line of defense – it lets me know when I need to use other coping strategies to protect myself and recharge.

Physical self-care. Feeling hungry, tired, sore, or sick only intensifies my aversion to social interaction when I’m exhausted. So, I try to eat healthy food, I always bring snacks with me, I take time to practice yoga and stretch out, and I prioritize getting enough sleep – at least eight hours a night, if possible, plus an afternoon nap if I have time.

Emotional self-care. If I’m stressed, or working through an emotional issue, feeling socially depleted can really bring out the nasty side of my anxiety – I’ll feel insecure about random things, or panic for no reason at all. I have a variety of emotional coping mechanisms that I use, but taking time to write in my notebook, or meditating, if a quiet space is available, are my go-to favorites.

Alone time – even if it’s pretend. If I’m taken care of physical and emotionally and I still feel depleted, it’s absolutely critical for me to feel socially isolated for an hour or two. Because dance events are generally crammed with people, my favorite strategy is to put on a pair of noise-canceling headphones, which I lug around for precisely this purpose (and also to, you know, listen to my swing music, because I work as a DJ and stuff), and listen to one of several calming Spotify playlists that I keep downloaded on my phone. Reading a book also works, particularly if I just need to refocus my mind on something other than the fact that I’m surrounded by people.

Sensory deprivation. Because I am extremely susceptible to sensory overstimulation, my ideal recharge environment is one that is mostly devoid of sensory stimulation: dark and quiet, with constant, even pressure across my skin (like being wrapped in a blanket, or lying on my stomach on an air mattress). The more depleted I feel, the more important an environment like this becomes for me to recover effectively.

Communicating what I need. This may sound like the most obvious suggestion of all, but there’s a reason I saved it for last. I am fortunate to have many intelligent and empathetic friends, who are quick to understand when I need to take a break and recharge. However, it wasn’t always this way. I have worked hard, and am still working hard, to explain to my friends what being introverted means for me, and how I often need to take time for myself so that I can enjoy socializing without shutting down. If you’re an introvert, and you struggle with feeling socially pressured into doing things you’re too exhausted for, I would encourage you to actively communicate when you need a break. Or a snack. Or a nap. Sometimes the solution is simple – it’s helping others to understand why you need it that’s hard.

Even as an introvert, swing dancing with other people is one of my all-time favorite things to do, and DJing is an extension of that desire to share an appreciation for good jazz music with others. I’m still learning how to best care for myself at dance events, but these are just some of the ideas I’ve discovered and experimented with so far. If you liked reading this, I would absolutely love it if you would leave me a comment and tell me what you think! Do you have coping strategies you use when you feel depleted? If you’re an extravert, what do you do when your introvert friends get exhausted?

Thank you so much for reading! We will return to your regularly scheduled set recaps soon!

7 thoughts on “How I Survive Lindy Hop Events as an Introvert

  1. Thanks for sharing! These are some great ideas. One thing I’ve been working on is giving myself “permission” to skip late nights, especially when there are classes the next morning I want to attend. Sometimes it’s hard to overcome the FOMO (I have a good group of friends who would regularly close down late nights, and it *is* fun to dance into the wee hours!), but my introverted self appreciates the extra time to sleep and unwind.

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    1. I really feel that! I love a good late night myself, but I often don’t make it past an hour or so before I’m too overloaded to continue. And I agree, extra time to sleep can make all the difference between great classes and terrible classes the next day! 🙂

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  2. I understand and will put myself in ‘time outs’. While I love competing, the energy out put is exhausting. Afterwards fellow dancers will often come up and sweetly talk to you. It is incredibly kind and humbling to know you inspire other dancers. Depending on how tired I am, it can quickly become overwhelming. At this point, I will keep an eye on how I am doing after comps, and step outside to decrease the stimuli (lower lights, less noise, less touching), and just breathe to help reset myself and enjoy the rest of the evening.

    I appreciate the awareness and the self-care! It is something I am trying to get better at.

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    1. Thank you for your feedback, Alex! That’s a great point about comps – I’ve not exactly made it into enough comps finals to have a standard routine afterwards, but I appreciate the ideas in case I ever do! 😉

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