Introverts love spending time alone, but even we have our limits.
It’s been over nine months — of uncertainty and so many unknowns, canceled vacations and plans, very limited options and things to look forward to, and missing family and friends. If you’re feeling a little (or a lot!) of pandemic fatigue, you’re not alone.
Especially if you’re an introvert.
At the beginning of the pandemic, funny tweets and memes started circulating, and one told introverts to check on their extroverted friends because they were not OK. But a recent study found that extroverts are actually handling this tough season better than introverts by a slight margin — in part due to the former’s enhanced psychological resiliency.
Yet quarantine has offered introverts a reprieve from so many of the things that drain our energy: open-concept office environments, the stream of invitations from our extroverted friends (which often lead to an overloaded social calendar), and the frequent temptation to cancel those plans.
But living in a state of uncertainty for this long is not only unnatural — it’s also really, really hard — and the study found that the uncertainty of this pandemic may be taking a greater toll on introverts, especially mental health-wise.
Here are three coping strategies I’ve been using to battle my own pandemic fatigue. I hope at least one of these will help you manage yours.
3 Ways for Introverts to Battle Their Pandemic Fatigue
1. Validate how you’re feeling, then adjust your expectations.
My husband and I moved from Los Angeles to Georgia last November to be closer to both of our families. After living on the opposite side of the continent from my parents for the past 14 years, I was so excited to finally be a drive away instead of a flight away, and we were all looking forward to having them visit in April.
Despite the distance, my parents and I have seen each other every 3-4 months like clockwork for the past 10 years, and it never even crossed our minds that the Canadian/U.S. border would ever shut down.
But that’s exactly what happened a month before their planned visit, and it’s been difficult for all of us, not knowing when we’ll be able to see each other again.
Although introverts are often content on their own — and simply don’t need as much social contact as extroverts — we still need quality time with “our people.” So, I’m sure you have a few situations that are also weighing heavily on you and taking an emotional toll.
What I’m discovering is that practicing acceptance and realistically adjusting or letting go of our expectations is the only way to feel better. This isn’t easy or we’d all just naturally do it — it takes intentionality and dedication.
A pandemic end date would help immensely, allowing us to adjust our expectations accordingly. But since this isn’t in the cards, I’ve been finding it helpful to take small steps toward releasing my expectations and accepting that this is my reality (at least for now).
Internally validating how you’re feeling is one way to help you release your expectations. It’s normal to feel a sense of loss for everything you’re missing out on these days. Allow yourself to feel those emotions instead of fighting them, and you’ll notice that it will become easier to accept your current situation.
And one way to instantly turn our moods around is by practicing gratitude. What we focus on, we feel, and gratitude shifts our focus to what we do have, grounding us in the present moment. When we’re grateful, there’s no room for the past and future thinking that creates so much stress in our lives. You can be grateful for everything from your morning coffee to a good friend you can call anytime.
Paying attention to what you’re focusing on can also help you choose a bigger picture view, and make the sacrifices that are necessary right now — like staying home — to stay safe and healthy, and to keep our families and friends safe and healthy, too.
2. Focus on what you can control.
Living in L.A. for 14 years really made me appreciate the weather variation we have in Georgia, especially over the summer. I love it all — the wild thunderstorms, the heat lightning, the beautiful sun showers that pop up out of nowhere, the rainbows and prisms, and the puffiest white clouds against the bluest skies.
As I write this, I’m watching the pouring rain outside my window, with flashes of lightning and booming thunder, and it seems to me that this wild season we’re all trying to navigate is a little like southern weather:
- Unpredictable and uncertain
- Constantly changing and often catching us off-guard
- Sometimes beautiful and sometimes a little scary
- Always completely out of our control
As I mentioned above, what you focus on, you feel, and if you’re focusing on all the things that are outside your control during this pandemic, you’re likely feeling pretty anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, and maybe even a little fearful.
But if you begin paying attention to what you’re focusing on and keep your focus on what you can control, you’ll begin to feel better, and both your actions and your interactions will reflect this.
Our circumstances are so often out of our hands, but the one thing we can always control is ourselves: how we show up in this now-virtual world, the choices we make, how we respond, and how we love the people in our lives and put their needs before ours.
I encourage you to begin asking yourself these three questions whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious from this crisis:
- What am I focusing on?
- Is this something outside of my control?
- If so, what can I focus on instead that I can control?
Shifting your focus can have an immediate impact on the way you feel, allowing you to make better decisions and see opportunities you would have otherwise missed.
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3. Create a joyful boost of anticipation, like a future trip you’d like to take once the pandemic ends.
A few weeks ago, I started noticing that my drive and motivation were at an all-time low. I was also having a hard time dragging myself out of bed in the morning, fighting brain fog throughout the day, and frequently felt on the verge of tears without fully knowing why.
Now I’ve never been a morning person, but I’ve always considered myself to be highly self-motivated, and I’m also typically able to get to the root of why I’m feeling a particular emotion. During those few weeks, I felt disconnected from who I am at my core and couldn’t figure out what was going on — until my husband finally suggested that I might be suffering from mild depression.
This isn’t something I typically struggle with, so that caught me off-guard. And I’m not the only one: Research has found that more people are struggling with mental health issues because of the pandemic.
I quickly realized my husband was right, and no longer having things to look forward to was part of the reason.
Although I’m an extreme introvert and love spending the majority of my time at home, I’m also a planner and love experiences. Throughout my life, I’ve used the anticipation of an upcoming adventure or connection with a friend as a source of joy, and also as a major coping strategy.
According to this article, “Much of life’s joy is wrapped up in expectation — in looking forward to a new adventure, a new enterprise, a new something. When life is stripped of anticipatory joy — when people can no longer make plans with confidence or look forward to vacations, weddings, or other happy events — they tend to struggle emotionally and psychologically.”
So, as it turns out, this is an everyday coping strategy that can help us calm anxiety and overwhelm, feel more hopeful, and focus on something positive and exciting. Remember, what you focus on, you feel.
Although there are still limitations to what we can plan and do, it is possible to create things to look forward to.
Here are a few ideas:
- Go on a road trip. It may not seem safe to fly yet, but if you haven’t gotten away since the pandemic began, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve probably needed the reset and change of scenery — I’m speaking from experience! A weekend away is ideal, but a day trip can give you something to look forward to, as well.
- Plan something to do outdoors. Over the weekend (even if you have to bundle up), go on a hike, visit a State Park, find somewhere new to explore, or revisit somewhere you haven’t been in a while. The goal is to get something on your calendar to get you out of your typical weekend routine.
- Learn something new. Not all of us have more time these days, but I know many people do, and this could be the perfect time to finally learn that new fill-in-the-blank activity you’ve been talking about for years, take an online course, or even read that book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf.
Like me, hopefully you’ll start to see that sometimes the smallest things can create the most joy, and we can use all the joy we can get these days.
Feeling overwhelmed? Get your copy of The Introvert’s Survival Guide for Pandemic Fatigue for all six of the strategies I’ve been using to fight the fatigue and feel better.