On the surface, coronavirus should seem to have little impact on the life of an introvert. We already happily live our days in the quiet solitude of our sacred spaces, reflecting on life, our relationships with others, our place and purpose within the world, and our deepest and innermost thoughts and feelings.
As an INFJ, those quiet moments for me, myself, and I are my chance to recharge and escape from the overstimulation of activities and interactions with people. It doesn’t mean I dislike conversing with others, but my social needs have always been different from my extroverted counterparts.
There is a compilation of silly memes circulating the web; things like, “I’m an introvert. I’ve been preparing for this moment my whole life.” But although we may already be experts at social distancing and holing up in our houses, quarantine during the pandemic is no walk in the park, even for the “quiet ones.”
Here are three ways the coronavirus has pushed my introvert limits and what I’m doing to combat it.
1. I’m seriously anxious. (Like, more so than usual.)
If you’re anything like me, then you’re glued to the news, impatiently awaiting updates on new restrictions, the most up-to-date number of cases, and the latest data on contracting and transmitting COVID-19.
To add to my worries, I live in a household with three generations, which includes a grandparent who experts say is most vulnerable. Not to mention my brother lives in New York City where they’ve issued a “major disaster declaration.” In my eyes, we are a classic “high risk” family no matter where we’re hunkering down.
How I’m dealing: Introverts are natural worriers, but the stress of coronavirus is like nothing I’ve felt before. It’s important that we not lose focus on the things that are most beneficial to us and our mental health. For starters, I’ve realized I have a choice of what to listen to, so I’m turning off the news in the evening and opting to watch HGTV and Animal Planet. I’m also working through that ever-growing to-read pile that’s overflowing my bookcase, virtually seeing a counselor (check to see if your insurance plan covers teletherapy), and taking my fur baby for long walks during the day because the fresh air is good for all of us.
Introverts are very self-aware individuals. You know what quiet activities are most effective for helping you decompress, so be sure you’re doing more of it to get you through this.
2. I live in an “extroverted” household.
I’m grateful my family gets along as well as we do. My parents are my best friends, and we’re so fortunate to have my grandmother living with us as well. While my grandmother has quiet tendencies of her own, my extroverted parents’ busy social lives have come to a screeching halt amid the pandemic. To translate, I’m feeling as though I’m now their main social interaction.
Until recently, our “two ships passing in the night” schedule had worked out well for everyone. Some evenings they’d stay in, but most of the time they’d go out with friends, rolling in at bedtime or when I was already fast asleep. Basically, they could satisfy their need for people and functions, and I could satisfy my need for cozy blankets and much-needed alone time.
That’s not the case anymore, of course, and I’m having to learn how to share my space and privacy with others. Not to sound overly dramatic, but an introvert’s “nest and rest” time is crucial for their existence in the world.
How I’m dealing: I wish that, as an introvert, I could just suck it up for a few weeks, but I can’t. It’s not that I want to be mean either, but if I need some space, I intend to give it to myself without feeling guilty. My family knows and respects my introversion, but even they tend to forget my struggles and fatigue while caught up in their own longing to socialize. While I realize we’re all making tough sacrifices right now, it is important that I continue to guard my emotional well-being. By closing my bedroom door and giving myself permission to step away for a while, I can nurture my need for solitude so that I can do a better job of helping and being present for my family.
3. My routine has changed.
Like many people around the country, I am out of a job with little prospects until COVID-19 dissipates and things start to go back to normal—another added stress. Just the ability to sit at a coffee shop with my laptop, head to the store for groceries, or grab the occasional take-out is either impossible or asking for trouble.
I’ve come to realize that while I typically enjoy being a homebody and relish not having to wake up at an ungodly hour, there is a difference between choosing to do so on my own terms and having someone else tell me to stay put.
Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean the coronavirus hasn’t put a damper on my plans. Believe it or not, I do have a few very close friends I wish I could get together with for lunch (I’m not a complete hermit). I was also excited for my brother and his girlfriend to visit next week. Of course, I miss feeling productive and filling my day with work-related tasks as well. Most introverts prefer consistency and predictability in our daily lives, and the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on all our planning and preparation.
How I’m dealing: Unfortunately, we’re facing weeks and months ahead with uncertainty. There’s no telling when we’ll have a bit of normalcy again, and what will life look like after coronavirus? For now, I’m doing my best to create a new routine for my new norm. I continue to wake up early, I spend my mornings writing, I signed up for an online professional development course, and I’m finding remote creative projects to fill my days with. Is it ideal? Not exactly, but I need to maintain as much stability for myself as I possibly can.
This is uncharted territory for everybody, not just introverts. As days of quarantine come and go, I’m sure my limits will be pushed in more ways than I can count, but I’m going to keep working hard to find ways to cope, and I hope you do, too.