Surrounding yourself with 68,000 other people (of which at least half seem to want to randomly hug you while they/you are sweaty and covered in playa dust) does not seem like the first place you'd find a self-described introvert. But, surprisingly, the playa can be incredible journey for those of us who consider ourselves to be slightly (or extremely) introverted.
A lot has been said recently about introverts. It used to be thought that introverts were antisocial or shy, but what it really comes down to is that introverts need a longer or more frequent periods of downtime after extended periods of socialization than their extrovert brethren. Think of it like an electric car: you, an extrovert, are like a Prius - you can switch from your electric tank to your gas tank to keep on moving down the road.
A quick stop at the gas station will get you up and running again. I, on the other hand, am like a Leaf - once my battery is depleted, I need to sit in silence, in a dark garage, plugged into the wall while my batteries recharge (okay maybe not a dark, silent garage, but you get the idea). If I keep pushing once my "low battery" light has come on, it's become uncomfortable for me to keep socializing and I'll ultimately just die (not literally, of course... but like that car on the side of the road, sometimes my body and mind just decides "okay, here is a good place to stop functioning!").
So how does this work when you are camping with friends and surrounded by tens of thousands of potential new friends, with constant partying, imbibing, dancing, and the *thump thump thump* of bass reverberating through your body 24 hours a day? Well, it takes some preparation and some mindfulness about your needs. So here are a few of MY tips for enjoying Burning Man without burning out, being kind to yourself and your own needs on the playa.
1) If you're an introvert and you know you need some quiet time, know that is totally okay. Your campmates or friends may be extroverts who can dance in the middle of DISTRKT all day long, and then move on to the next party when the sun sets. Don't try to keep up with those folks, because if you do, you're going to burn out and then NOTHING will be fun. Missing out on a few parties or bike trips is far better than pushing yourself too hard. Don't worry - there are a million fun experiences to be had on the playa, and you don't need to have them all.
2) Communicate with your campmates, partners, and friends that you will need some downtime. Letting everyone know that you will need some alone time AND sleeping time will clarify your and their expectations. It's no fun to be right on the edge of sleep when a campmate comes back and decides to "get the party started!" or to feel guilty about not participating with group activities. You should also take their needs and plans into consideration as well (and if you know they are all night partiers, maybe reconsider who you're spending a week in the desert with).
3) Schedule some time for yourself as often as you need it. I've been known to take a solo bike trip to the deep playa or tell my people "I'm just going to sit in this comfy chair while you guys go to Pink Mammoth today." No one will be offended, and being on your own gives you time to breathe and reflect about your playa journey. Or take a nap, which is equally as important and amazing.
4) Get some rest. Whether it's in the middle of the hot hot afternoon, or whether you choose to sleep during traditional hours - make sure you sleep. It will make a load of difference. I have camped with the sunrise-crew both years - they stay up many of the nights to see the sun climb over the temple. I make an effort to see the sunrise once because that's about all my body can handle. Though a beautiful experience, it is slightly marred when I'm cranky, tired, and feeling overwhelmed. Schedule a night in if you need to! Break out the sleep mask and earplugs and wake up with a whole new outlook on the playa!
5) Ask for help if you need it. If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or just downright burnt out, it's okay to ask for help. Your campmates, friends, and burners in general will likely do everything in their power to help you feel comfortable (unless they are jerks, and you don't want to be around those people anyway). If you are lost and can't find your way home - ask for help. If you just need a hand to get out of a large crowd - ask for help. If you know something is wrong, but you don't know what it is - ask for help. It's okay to ask for help!
-finally and most importantly-
6) Relax and have some fun! This is a wonderful opportunity for those of you who live according to a schedule (social or otherwise) to take a step back, take a breath, and just have fun. There is so much to experience, and there is no way you'll experience it all.
Before walking into the dust in Beautiful BRC, take some time to evaluate what and how much you want to do, how and when you want to (and can) do it, and what you need to get your optimum Burning Man experience. Approaching yourself and your burn with loving kindness will help you to have the best time with the least burnout.
See you in the dust!