As an introvert, I love solitude. But sometimes it lasts too long and turns into the “introvert blues.”
I looked in my bathroom mirror after the video chat. Lovely. A blot of mascara under my left eye, tiny black dots under my right. Now, he’s not only seen me puffy-eyed, he’s also seen the messiness that comes when I’m feeling fragile. Rafael and I haven’t even kissed yet. He lives across the country. I’m planning to visit him in a few months. How likely is it that he’s into sad gals?
That question aside, how did I get to the place where I’m mascara-stained during a video chat with a new love interest?
It started a few months before I turned forty-nine. I broke up with my boyfriend of four years, knowing full well how scary it could be to face middle age without a partner. I also knew that being alone in the middle of a pandemic, with constantly shifting risks and guidelines, could get downright perilous.
You see, I’m an introvert with loner tendencies. With a grand total of seven friends nearby — including my ex — I don’t have a great safety net against loneliness. It’s a precarious balance. I make friends fairly easily, but I don’t seek new friends often, content as I usually am in my own world.
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Content in My Own World, Yet I Also Know What Too Much Solitude Can Do to Me
If I don’t see friends regularly, my energy, spiritual health, and emotional balance start to slip.
When I realized, a few weeks before my birthday, that half my safety net would be away the day I turned forty-nine, I started scrambling and reminding everyone, setting up a few pre-birthday dinners (one-on-one, of course). I ended up with one homemade meal and three dinners out, including, on my actual birthday, an evening in Battery Park City, overlooking the Hudson. I was blessed that day with soft breezes, a glinting riverscape, an unconscionably good lemon meringue tart, and loyal friendship. Gratitude abounded!
So I wasn’t totally prepared for how I felt the following week. Half my safety net took off for vacations with loved ones, and everyone else was busy and/or would require a long subway ride for a get-together.
As an introvert, I have a love-hate relationship with solitude. I mostly love it. But sometimes it lasts too long and turns to loneliness, which turns to feelings of helplessness. I have my spirit-boosting techniques, but sometimes they don’t work. Picture a sad gal, crumpled into a droopy child’s pose, dripping tears onto her yoga mat. Yes… the “introvert blues” are here.
When Loneliness Turns Into the ‘Introvert Blues’
Still, my need for solitude — and a certain measure of independence — led me to break up with someone who needed too much of my time. And then it led me to test out a relationship with someone who lives far, far away.
Rafael and I met years ago in L.A., but he was in a relationship then. He’s single now, and we’ve been video-chatting almost daily for a few months. He doesn’t mind the idea of a long-distance relationship, which is great, since I’m in New York. But, at the moment, I’m not quite ready to travel. As an introvert, my primary relationship fulfills a lot of my emotional needs, but right now, my primary relationship is kind of theoretical! So…
How do I navigate the “introvert blues” and feel great again?
In other words, how do I survive the dreaded downtime, when no one seems to be around, my life force starts to wobble, and I slowly grind to a halt?
Over the years, I’ve figured out some survival tricks. Here are my top seven. Sometimes one is enough to brighten my mood. Sometimes I mix-and-match till I feel like my best self again. Whether you have a case of the “introvert blues” or “weekend blues,” you can see which of the below work for you.
7 Ways to Cure the ‘Introvert Blues’
1. Remember that the blues will pass — they always do.
They may feel awful, but they’re not a permanent state. That’s why I try to catch myself, early on, to make sure I don’t worry when they come around.
As you may know, introverts tend to worry and overthink — even under the best of circumstances. It’s literally how we’re wired! Worrying and overthinking may make me feel like I’m taking care of myself, but the reality is, those mental habits make me feel worse. And feeling better is what I’m after.
Just being mindful of my “worry brain” helps me take a step back and not get lost in sad thoughts. Just knowing that the worry trap exists helps me not fall into it, and it helps the blues pass more swiftly.
2. Take it to nature.
A long walk in the park with a friend is perfect bliss. When my walk buddies are away, I downshift to a short walk alone. Trees, birds, turtles, flowers — they all do the trick. A quick burst of joy, and gratitude, can go a long way.
That may sound too good to be true, or just too easy. But spending time in nature is an elixir for introverts. It has been scientifically shown to lower stress levels, reduce depression, help you sleep better, and — voilà — bring on a greater sense of well-being and happiness.
3. Nurture friendships over time, even the ones that aren’t a perfect fit.
Friendship is crucial to me, and sometimes extroverts are my lifeline! People who love people and who thrive in high social-energy situations help me get out of the house, even when my tendency is to stay put.
Of course, I still socialize on my terms. When I’m ready to be on my own again, I politely excuse myself. My friends know me well enough not to take it personally.
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
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4. Seek out your favorite online gurus.
I love anyone who helps me reconnect to my deepest, most content self, whether they do it through a spiritual talk, yoga, or fun cardio moves and uplifting chatter.
My favorite yoga instructors post plenty of free yoga sessions of varying lengths and levels. You don’t need much experience, and you can get an effective session done — start to finish — in less than fifteen minutes. Find whatever works for you! Studies confirm that a wide range of yoga and meditation styles relieve depression and improve mood, in the short- and long-term.
5. Start the day gadget-free. Believe me, your mental health will thank you.
The first thing I want to do in the morning is reach for my phone to check messages, the weather, and big news headlines. But the truth is, most — honestly, all — of that stuff can wait.
When I give myself at least an hour before I start scrolling, I feel calmer, more centered, more creative, and all around better throughout the day. It’s good for your emotional health, and research backs this up: Too much phone time leads to struggles with mood.
Instead, start the day with a short walk and cup of coffee, journaling quietly in bed, or even reading uplifting passages from your favorite authors. Remember, you can always reach out to your friends and family later in the day. They’ll still be there for you!
6. Reconnect with what’s beautiful about being faithful to yourself and your needs.
At forty-nine, I have a stronger sense of ease with myself, as I seem to have burned away a lot of the anxiety and fear of my twenties and thirties. Also, I no longer apologize, to others or to myself, for my needs, even if it means slipping into sadness sometimes.
If you’re younger than I am, I’m hopeful you’ll be able to use some of these tricks today, so you don’t have to wait till middle-age to accept yourself and feel confident! And if you know you’re slipping, be open about your feelings and call on the next tip…
7. Have a really great conversation with someone.
During the lowest times, just one good friend, one short conversation, can work miracles. It’s the magic potion of gratitude, connection, listening, and being listened to that I rely on and have an enormous amount of faith in. And the more the person “gets” you, the better.
And Don’t Forget About Hope…
Here’s a bonus remedy: Hope. I’m sure Rafael saw the blot of mascara. He also felt the vibe. (I pretty much told him outright what was going on.) He stuck with me for a while. “Are you feeling better? Your energy is better,” he said, at the end of our chat, looking at me through the little video eye.
Is this whole idea of our relationship a long shot? Maybe. I happen to loathe L.A., and I wouldn’t dream of asking him to move here — he’s an L.A. guy to the core. Plus, though there was an initial attraction when we met seven years ago, we’ve never even touched. We established a friendship, which hung on over the years, through a few text messages and occasional marathon phone calls. Never flirting, never more than just catching up. But, man, has he been there for me these last few months, a true friend. For my “introvert blues,” that’s the best antidote of all.
You might like:
- Why Introverts Might Get the ‘Weekend Blues’ — And How to Cope
- How to Deal With Pushy People When You’re a People-Pleasing Introvert
- 9 Ways Introverts Can Improve Their Emotional Health
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