• Megan Baldwin, LMSW

Introverts + COVID-19

Is this our new reality?

I think this is week 4ish... (or 4,000... but who is really counting at this point, right?) for most people in our area. Georgia has recently implemented the shelter-in-place rule and while the regulations aren't super specific, my general understanding is that we aren't supposed to go anywhere or be around anyone outside of who lives in our home, unless we have to. I have to make a confession, friends. Initially, the idea of not having to be social for a short period of time sounded pretty appealing to me. I thought of this experience as an opportunity to rest.

As a proud and self-proclaimed introvert, I tend to need some recovery time after big social events. Sometimes, even small social events with people I know well and love dearly leave me feeling exhausted. This took me a while to realize, and the path to acceptance was not the prettiest. I think I was 24 before it occurred to me that this perpetual exhaustion after socializing was a recurring pattern in my life. I married an extrovert that LOVES to be busy and to be around ALL the people, all the time, and after 3 years of marriage and trying to keep up with him, my cup was feeling pretty empty. I found myself feeling guilty and somewhat confused about having this response to people because as I mentioned in a previous post, I also consider myself to be a relational person. (I like to think I coined the phrase "relational introvert," but who knows.) I am someone that enjoys relationships and people very much, so much so, that I have basically dedicated my whole life to understanding people by choosing the career and educational path of a social work.

As with most people who I have spoken to about it, once it finally hit me that I was not completely alone in these feelings, the guilt, and confusion of being an "introvert" began to lift. Somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that being quiet, or even needing time to myself was a negative thing. It felt selfish and almost indulgent to ask for my space. I can't pinpoint the specific thought or experience that sent that message to me; maybe it's a cultural thing, or an accumulation of personality, past relationships, etc. but I have always envied the people who weren't "shy" or quiet. The social butterflies. I suppose that I why I married one. But once I accepted this piece of my identity and began talking about it, I not only began to understand who I was on a deeper level, but also how to take care of myself in a way that wouldn't leave me feeling like I was running on empty. I found a path of self-awareness that allowed me to not only care for myself, but also for the people in my life in a deeper and more authentic way. I discovered a way to balance what I needed, and a way to communicate that to those closest to me. It was the most freedom I had ever experienced.

Fast forward 4 years and here we are today: in the middle of a quarantine during a global health pandemic. Again, enter those feelings of confusion and weird guilt about somewhat enjoying this "quiet time" and this piece of isolation. But I also find myself missing "real life" and aching for everyone that is struggling in different ways during all of this. I think about those in my life that have lost jobs and wages and are looking at significant financial struggle on the horizon. I think about the nurses and doctors and other essential staff that are putting themselves on the front lines to take care of the rest of us. I worry for my extrovert friends that are missing people and connection desperately and don't know what to do with their extra energy and all of this empty space that seems to fill their days now. But I also worry and ache for my introverts, that are also experiencing similar feelings of guilt but also frustration, confusion, and some fulfillment. This is such a weird time.

So I wanted to check in with my friends and followers. I wanted to give a little message of freedom for this to be hard. Whether you're an introvert, extrovert, essential worker or non-essential worker, moms, dads, friends, family, those that are alone and scared, those that are drowning in the midst of this chaos, those that are enjoying the quiet: this will pass. And until it does, here's some ways that you can take care of yourself:

  1. Move your body! "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't." -Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

  2. Get outside (if you can!) I am a firm believer that sunshine is a natural disinfectant for the heart and mind.

  3. Check on your people! Not just your family and friends, but your neighbors, too.

  4. Make time for yourself and set some boundaries to honor that, if you need to!

  5. Meditate.

  6. Find a mantra. Or five. Post them everywhere. "This, too, shall pass," is a favorite of mine! You can borrow it if you need to.

  7. Use this time to work on your hobbies or start a new one! Bonus points if your hobby can do something to brighten someone else's day.

  8. Journal. Write about this experience. This is history in the making, folks, and I promise, you may want to look back and reflect on this strange time and what it meant to you, someday.

  9. Reach out if you need help. If you find yourself in a position where you are feeling depressed and anxious, PLEASE ask for help. There are mental health hotlines available 24/7 and many of the mental health agencies I am aware of locally are making accommodations during this time because it is so hard. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or think that you may hurt yourself or someone else, please get help. There is no shame in reaching out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and Georgia Crisis and Access Line (GCAL) is 1-800-715-4225, of course, if you feel that it is an emergency, call 911.

Stay well, friends!

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