How to Survive Living With Roommates as an Introvert

An introvert with a roommate

For introverts, having roommates can be a challenge — they want you to talk or go out. But it’s all about protecting your introvert energy.

If you’re an introvert and have ever lived with other people, you know the struggle of actually finding that sacred alone time for yourself. With more and more of us working from home, the house you’re living in might never be completely empty. 

Can you relate to feeling overwhelmed from all the stimuli around you, knowing that if you’re hit with one more thing to process, you’ll completely explode? And that one thing might just be an innocent conversation with your poor extroverted roommate

Being in my mid-twenties, not living with roommates has not been an option (mostly for financial reasons). For the most part, I’ve been very lucky and have loved the people I’ve lived with. But, nevertheless, as much as I’ve enjoyed their company, I’d sometimes get tired from all the socializing that’s an inherent part of having roommates.

Living With People Is All About Creating — And Maintaining — Boundaries

To throw it way back, I remember the agony and angst I had when I, as a 19-year-old, left home and started to travel. The idea of sharing my space with other people felt claustrophobic to me, and at the time, I didn’t even know why I felt that way. All I knew was that the thought of living in a room with five other people for months actually made me feel panicked and I experienced shortness of breath. I know it sounds overly dramatic, but in a way, that feeling says a lot about how our subconscious introverted mind knows what’s best for us. 

I felt ridiculous for feeling the way I did — I had no problem sharing my space for a couple of nights, but knowing it would be for months, I felt trapped. Not having much of an option, I went through with it (spoiler alert, it all went well) and I have since lived in numerous shared households. 

Even though it has always gone well, I’d love to say that it’s been free from problems — but in all honesty, it hasn’t. Many times, I completely overstepped boundaries I didn’t even know I had, leaving me drained of energy, cranky, and the worst version of myself. 

However, as you’re growing, you’re also learning. I’ve learnt to understand my energy, create (and enforce) boundaries, and to this day, I am working hard on respecting them. I’m gonna go ahead and throw out a big cliché, but not being my best self is bad for those around me, as well as for myself. I’ve finally started to actively respect my boundaries — and here are some ways I do so while living with other people.

6 Ways to Survive Living With Roommates as an Introvert 

1. Let them know you’re an introvert — and what that means.

As a 19-year-old, I didn’t know much about introversion — and I didn’t realize how much of an introvert I was either. Not being aware of my needs and boundaries myself, I couldn’t express them and share them with others. 

Now, not everyone might be as in tuned about how introversion and extroversion works, so I feel it’s best to explain it to them. You can do so easily, using the phone battery analogy. It’s no secret that we introverts get energy from spending time alone and recharging. But your extroverted roommates may not know this. So what I like to do is refer to my social energy as a phone battery. Even though a solid “no” is always enough of an answer to a question, adding, “My social battery is at 10 percent and I need to charge” might give your fellow roommates an idea of how much you actually have to give (or, in this case, not give). 

We all know how delicately we use our phones when the battery is low — every percentage number counts! For me, this started as a bit of a joke with my roommates, and I can now casually throw out my social battery percentage to let everyone know what state I’m in. 

2. Take advantage of noise-canceling headphones.

I know you may already know this trick, but it’s still worth mentioning since it’s so essential! I don’t know what I would have done without my noise-canceling headphones. Honestly, it should be a mandatory tool for every introvert out there. 

Being able to close the door to the outside world for a little bit is such an easy life hack to protect your introvert energy. It also gives your roommates an idea of how you’re not available — no words necessary. It’s a great way of showing them that you need your space without having to voice it. 

3. Take as many naps as you need.

We all know the benefits of a good nap — they’re an introvert’s best friend! Just like the noise-canceling headphones, a nap is a possibility for you to close out the world for a little bit and gain some energy.

For me, naps are a life hack I use when I know that I’m going to socialize later in the day. If so, I always plan to take a 20-minute nap during the day. The battery analogy works great here, too! Imagine that you charge your phone for 20 minutes. You might not get the battery up to 100 percent, but at least you’ve given it a little bit more energy, which will make it last longer. Same goes for naps; it’s not a full night’s sleep, but will help provide you with some added energy. 

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4. Do yoga, meditate, or practice some form of mindfulness.

Practicing mindfulness is another way to decompress and get a boost of energy. Whether you meditate, do some deep breathing, or practice yoga, there are many ways you can get centered to feel more grounded.

I’d like to share the way I look at yoga. I think of yoga in the way you are releasing air from an air mattress.  When an air mattress is completely filled with air and you’re going to pack it down to make it fit in its box, you open the vent and start folding the mattress to get the air out. If you see your body and mind as a blown up air mattress, the more stimuli and energy you have stored up in you, the tighter and stiffer your body will be. Just like the more air you blow into an air mattress, the tighter and stiffer that will get. (And, if you’re not careful, you can make it explode.) 

The same goes for you, your body, and your mind. The more energy and stimuli you take in without time to process or to vent it, the more likely it is that you’ll explode. So just as you open the vent and fold up your air mattress, yoga will make you open your human vent (breathing) and fold yourself ( yes, all the weird yoga poses) to release that built up energy. This makes you have more room to take in further stimuli and energy! Think about this the next time you’re doing yoga. You’ll be able to feel the tension leaving your body, which is pretty cool!

5. Take complete days just for yourself (no socializing-with-roommates included).

One of my absolute favorite things to do is to just spend the day with myself by going out and doing something I love! I love to go hiking (with the only company being my camera). Or I’ll go to a café and blast music in a good pair of, you guessed it, noise-canceling headphones! Maybe I’ll also journal and let out all my thoughts. or not. 

I won’t deny that I constantly get questions about me doing these things alone. Some days, I love to share these moments with other people; other days, I love to share them with myself. I make sure to have at least one day each week where I spend the whole day alone. It gives me time to recharge and ground myself, which is so important for us introverts.

6. Above all else, respect your introversion — don’t forget to follow your boundaries.

So, this is something I’m working hard on, even though I know all the great benefits from it. As I mentioned earlier, I’m definitely constantly met with questions about the way I protect my energy, often in the form of small comments like, “Oh come on, just one beer.” This then makes me feel guilty for trying to listen to my needs. 

First of all, it’s not anyone else’s business on how you spend your life — if you want to stay home instead of going out, others don’t have anything to do with that decision. Second of all, you’re actually making an effort to be your best self. Not taking care of yourself and your energy will hurt both you and the questioning roommate/person. Respecting your boundaries — and introversion — is a responsible thing to do. Give your introversion the respect and care it needs! 

I know how easy it is to say “yes” to things and to feel guilty if you say “no.” There are so many days I wish I had the energy extroverts have. But the fact is, our introvert brains are wired differently, which makes us spend our energy differently. So remember to respect that and go with it, not against it. You just have to find ways to work with your introvert battery life and energy — and, most importantly, continue to respect and love your introverted self.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

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