It’s been 14 months (or longer, depending on what part of the world you’re in) that we’ve been living in a pandemic. 14 months of being acutely aware of our personal space, washing our hands, and largely avoiding other humans.
With the new CDC recommendations for vaccinated people, life is moving closer and closer to “normal.” (I just saw that Disney World dropped their outdoor mask requirement today!)
This is exciting news, and we’re all obviously ready to feel like we can do the things we want to do without fear of catching COVID or having to wear a mask or social distance.
However, as an introvert, I have found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed as we move back into “normal” life.
Over the past two months, I had three weekends in a row where I had plans, like real plans to hang out with people or travel. It started with a trip to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center one weekend, then the next weekend I helped host a baby shower for a close friend, and then the weekend after that my parents came into town for a visit.
All of that was fun and good, but I was looking forward to enjoying the upcoming weekend quietly at home. But by the time the weekend got there, it was somehow (I say that tongue in cheek) full of plans to do things with people! I have a coworker I’m watching an anime show with, and I had invited her to come over to watch a few episodes. We’ve started going back to church in person, so we had worship on Sunday morning, and then we also got invited to a small group church gathering that night. Then we had some friends we hadn’t seen in a while who asked us if we wanted to have dinner together… and so without even trying that hard, my quiet “no plans” weekend was gone.
It may sound like I’m complaining about having friends who want to do stuff with me, or being able to resume activities in public. I’m not – again, those are all great things that we’ve been waiting to do for the past 14 months!
But I will say that going through this pandemic, especially the shut down, made me realize how much of an introvert (and also a homebody) I am. I enjoyed the slower pace of life. I enjoyed more time with my family. I enjoyed the simplicity of it all.
For some of us, doing fun stuff, even if we enjoy it, actually drains our energy. Being an introvert means that being around other people requires energy from me, and to recharge, I need alone time. It doesn’t mean I hate other people or don’t want to have fun, but I have limits.
A good example of this is when my husband and I went to Japan two years ago for our 10th anniversary. I found that I had the energy to do one or two big outings a day, and then I was ready to go back to the hotel and rest. My husband on the other hand, found the newness and adventure to be energizing and was always ready for more! You can read about how we navigated that trip in my post Unexpected Lessons from Japan.
So what can I and my fellow introverts do to help ourselves during this shift back to normalcy and busyness? The answer is not to hide under our covers and wish it would all go away (though if that works, let me know!) Below I’ve listed a few tips I think will help us cope:
Schedule a “no plans” weekend at least once a month
I requested a Sabbath weekend for Mother’s Day, and it was amazing! As you may find, it’s easy to suddenly find yourself with zero downtime unless you are purposeful about keeping some open space in your schedule.
Be purposeful with your time (less Netflix)
Sometimes after a long day, our natural response is to check out mentally by watching a show or scrolling through social media. That’s fine if it helps you, but I find that for myself, it’s more like a bandaid instead of a solution. I become frustrated that I don’t have time to read or write more, and then I have to remind myself how much time I spent on mindless activities.
Find ways to recharge in smaller doses
Even if you can’t find an entire weekend to recharge, can you find 30 minutes in a day? Even just 10 minutes? Occasionally I’ll neglect to do something energy-filling because I think I don’t have enough time for it to be beneficial. Even if you only have 5 minutes of free time, there’s evidence that doing deep breathing or mindfulness exercises can still be beneficial.
Invite people to your home instead of going out
Since the pandemic started, I’ve found that “going out” is a bit more energy draining than it used to be. The first time I actually dined in at a restaurant, I felt like I had forgotten how to do it! If your home is a source of comfort and energy, invite friends to come over to hang out instead of meeting up somewhere else.
Be honest about your energy requirements
Sometimes I wish I was more like my husband who thrives off new experiences and adventure, but I’m not – and that’s okay! Let go of the guilt of what you “should” be and embrace who you are and how you were made. It’s a lot less energy-draining when you stop fighting your natural rhythms.
Say “no” more often
It was nice to not have to say “no” during the shutdown wasn’t it? But now it’s time to flex those boundary-setting muscles again and be straightforward when you don’t feel up to doing something. You can even write up a script of what to say if saying “no” stresses you out. It could be something like, “I’d love to do that another time, but this weekend my family and I are taking time to recharge at home.”
Be mindful about what gives energy and what takes energy – then set boundaries
Take note of how you feel after an activity or being around a particular person. If that experience left you with less energy, make it an activity you do less often, or only when you’ve got the energy to spare. Set boundaries for yourself to make sure your emotional and mental health are protected. When you find something that gives you energy, make it a regular part of your routine!
Go at your own pace
There’s no rule that says you have to go from total social isolation to being out on the town every night – take your time and go slowly if that feels better to you. Just because places are open now doesn’t mean you are obligated to go to them. You can still pick up take out and eat it in your home if that’s preferable to dining in. You can still order your groceries online. Work up to a balance of going out and staying in that feels right to you.
Join an introverts support group
I’m kind of kidding on this one, but seriously, talk to other low-energy introverted people and see how they are coping. Or sent them an email if talking to them is too stressful. Not everyone understands what it’s like to be drained even by fun things and fun people! Other introverts can validate you and honor your choices. (But really, if there was an introverts support group, would anyone show up? Would we have to play those *begins hyperventilating* ice-breaker games???)