“I feel pressure from my friends to go out most nights, but I’m burnt out by the weekend. Help!”

Written by Billie Bhatia

Stylist’s columnist Billie Bhatia answers your questions.

Q: “I feel pressure from my friends to go out most nights, but I’m burnt out by the weekend. Help!”

From Megan S

I should probably start with a confession: I have often been that person who puts pressure on her friends to go out. *Insert grimace face emoji here*

Pre-pandemic, aka my 20s (I’m guessing you’re in your 20s, because no one in their 30s is going out ‘most nights’), I lived by the kind of gross motto: “You can sleep when you’re dead.” (The irony that I championed saying this in tandem with a well-documented love of sleep is not lost on me.)

This “radical” mantra that I inflicted on so many, and most often on myself, implied that life was only worth living if we were using our time to full capacity. For me, this meant filling my evenings with fun. The fun could range from elaborate dinners to cosy nights in the pub, from roaring parties to sneaking into events I had no business being at. And the thread that bound this version of fun together consisted of food, alcohol and late-night Ubers.

2019: An exciting invite would land in my inbox and before I had even RSVPed my own attendance, a blast would have gone out to my nearest and dearest saying, “Look at this! We are going out tonight, and I’m not taking no for an answer.” Some people (my dad) might have called me a social bully, others would say I was just a party animal, but I saw these nights as opportunities that were never going to come our way again, so best we grab them with both hands.

In the same way as the “funny friend” always has a duty to be hysterical, as the “fun friend”, I felt bound by my oath to only sleep when I was dead. Deep down, I knew the lifestyle of back-to-back nights out with very little room to rest would come back to bite me (more on that to come), but until I got stung, the temptation for fun overruled anything else. And I was adamant that everyone should share my attitude – coaxing, cajoling and (sometimes) charming people into agreeing that my plan was better than anything else they might want to do.

Friends who cancelled annoyed me. I didn’t have a problem if you said no from the beginning, but if you said yes and dangled the carrot of fun only to whip it away at the last minute, I would be furious. And if you had used the “I feel a bit tired” excuse, well, I was positively irate. Ashamedly, the words, “You feel tired? Smash a Red Bull and get out the door, loser,” might have been uttered.

To old me – pre-Covid me, twenty-something me – there was nothing more pathetic than feeling tired. Saying you were tired was like saying you were bored. It was a stop-gap emotion; I didn’t believe in flagging fatigue that made your body ache and soul cry out for a cosy spot on the sofa. (Stay with me – I do now!)

Not even a serious case of pneumonia (yes, really) suppressed my appetite for a night out. Living life at 100mph became a defining personality trait. Only when I was confronted with my world being reduced to 1mph in March 2020 did I fully understand the toxicity of that and my need for rest. I was exhausted. Tired to my bones and burnt out to my core. I had taken this thirst for what I thought was the only version of life to such an extreme that my body was totally parched of rest.

As my now older (and evidently much wiser) self, I can tell you this: don’t say yes to please anyone but yourself. ‘No’ is a complete answer, so don’t be afraid to use it. I wish I had, and I wish even more that I had accepted ‘no’ when it was used in response to an invitation. Upon some self-reflection (not my strong suit), I discovered that what I loved about these nights out wasn’t just the thrill of a bar packed with unknown strangers or even the celebrity sightings at a party; what I cherished most, and wanted to constantly recreate, was a collage of memories with the people I loved. The setting was irrelevant, it was the company I craved. And I have a feeling that might be what your friends want too – just a piece of you.

The truth is, you can deliver that piece in plenty of ways that won’t leave you feeling depleted. Going for a walk, a Sunday roast, an early mid-week dinner, a silent cinema trip or a date on your sofa to watch a romcom you’ve both seen before – all are equally valid counter suggestions to constant nights out. Resting with your friends is as precious as sinking margaritas until 3am on a Wednesday night. You just have to be brave enough to ask for it.

Ask Billie anything on Instagram, @stylistmagazine 

Image: Sarah Brick

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