With a toddler and extroverted husband at home, this time of forced isolation is anything but peaceful.
You’ve probably seen the memes going around about how the current worldwide pandemic measures have no impact on introverts. You know, because we like to isolate ourselves during normal conditions… ha ha.
Sure, as an introvert, I re-energize through alone time. I enjoy spending time at home. But even I need some level of social interaction to thrive. Just like anyone else, being forced to stay home is not the lifestyle I would choose. Especially when it means being stuck with an extroverted husband and a toddler — one with double my husband’s energy.
So, I want to make the point that this quarantine situation can be tough for introverts, too.
And for those of us who have anxiety (me!), the next few weeks (months?!) will feel like an eternity.
If you’re like me, you’re either having a difficult time getting through the day (holy moly, how am I going to survive another HOUR of this maddening reality?!) or you’re projecting how you feel right now into the future (holy moly, will this be my life forever?).
Either way, isolation isn’t fun if you end up trapped in your mind.
What Happens When We Play the ‘What If’ Game
With such a fast turn of events, it’s easy to unravel and fall into the “what if” game. What if…
- My company lays off people? (maybe it’s already happening)
- The economy doesn’t bounce back?
- I can’t find a job?
- This is going to reoccur next year?
- I have to give birth at home?
Okay, maybe that last one is just me, considering I’m 28 weeks pregnant. I won’t lie, thoughts like these trap me all the time, but right now, I’m making a conscious effort to steer away from them knowing I literally have no control over the situation.
Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose industry is still going strong and you finally get to work from home in peace. As introverts, isn’t that what we long for — some peace and quiet to think?
But if you’re, say, a server at a restaurant or working in the travel industry, you might be facing an extremely uncertain future — and being stuck in the house with your own thoughts can be a truly distressing experience.
My Peace and Quiet Were Stolen
I’m someone whose peace and quiet have been stolen by this crisis.
See, a few days ago, the Netherlands (where I live) declared everything closed until April 6, including schools and daycares. Cue a nightmare.
I went from being ecstatic about working from home to horrified at the thought of being stuck with a 3-year-old for three whole weeks. I almost broke down. I knew it was a pivotal moment, and the thoughts I let in would determine how the next few weeks would unfold.
As an introvert, it’s easy for me to slip into a dreamlike state. I’m good at imagining all the scenarios that might take place. The moment I get into such a mindset, it’s hard for me to get out of it. This is why it’s extremely important for me to be mindful to not fall into it in the first place.
How I’m Coping
Preventative measures are mandatory in times like these. So, let me tell you how I’m coping with this crisis as an introvert and a highly sensitive person, a.k.a, someone who needs a lot of alone time away from the commotion. Unfortunately, that’s out of the question, as I’m stuck in a house with a rambunctious toddler and an extroverted husband. For me, it’s all about staying above the anxiety and not letting it get me to the point of losing my cool.
1. I’m level-setting my expectations.
My expectation going forward is I won’t have time to work on my projects until my son goes to bed. As a creative, I can’t just sit down for short spurts throughout the day and start writing.
To combat this reality, I’m going to get at least one thing done a day that gets me closer to my goals. Prior to my son’s daycare closing, I had a huge daily to-do list, but now I know my time is restricted. I have to pick one thing to accomplish by the time I go to bed. This will help me relax a bit and make me still feel somewhat productive.
So, in this difficult time, set the right expectations so you don’t end up exploding inside when things don’t work out a certain way.
2. I’m adjusting my schedule.
Because I don’t have the time I want to have during the day, I’m going to magically create time. As someone who loves and needs sleep, I’m going to sacrifice a little of it and wake up earlier in order to get some writing in. It’s the only way I can tame my resentment at not having the free time I envisioned I would have. If it just so happens that I have a bad night, I’m going to push an extra hour after my son’s bedtime.
The most important thing we can practice during times like these is flexibility. Not just when it comes to our schedule, but also our mind. For example, I can’t be angry at missing the morning hours from time to time. I’ll just have to re-assess throughout the day and see where I can catch up.
See if you can create a freeform schedule in your mind about how you want your day to go, but add some padding for the unexpected distraction to happen.
3. I’m grieving my planned activities.
Like everyone, I had plans for the coming month. My birthday is coming up, my son’s birthday is coming up, my 10-year anniversary is coming up — all within days of each other. We had a trip planned to France for a few days just to get away on a babymoon before the second baby comes. My best friend booked a weekend to stay with us. I had tickets to an interesting conference that got canceled. My massages got rescheduled, my prenatal yoga postponed. The list goes on and on…
I’m grieving each one of these separately. If I let myself be angry at missing these things, I will rip myself away from the current reality, which is the one thing I don’t want to do. Staying in the present and accepting this situation as it evolves is the only thing I can do to stay sane.
Think of all the things you had planned or wanted to do in the next few months — then let them go.
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4. I’m grateful for the positives.
They say that practicing gratitude is the path to a healthier mind. In times like these, when anxiety runs high, it’s even more important to say out loud the things we’re grateful for — because there’s always something.
So, here is my list of things I’m grateful for:
- I get to spend time with my son before his sister comes and changes the family dynamic.
- I can learn to be in the moment without letting the future affect how I feel.
- Spring is here, and the sun is finally shining, even though we can’t go anywhere.
- I’m saving multiple hours a day by not commuting to work.
- I get to stay in bed longer with my son in the morning without needing to be anywhere or do anything.
You don’t have to write it down, but when you get into a state of panic wondering how you’re going to make it out alive, think of something you’re grateful for. I promise it helps.
5. I’m indulging whenever possible.
The phrase “treat yo’ self” has never felt more relevant. I’m making it my current life motto because if I don’t have something to look forward to every day, I’ll capsize.
So, it’s pancakes for breakfast. Oreos after dinner. Hot coffee throughout the day. I’m not holding back on making the small moments count.
When I found out that Disney was releasing Frozen II earlier than expected, I put that on my list of things to look forward to. It might seem minor, but if we have something novel we can do as a family, it’s a double win. I made sure to stock up on chips, popcorn, and cookies for this special event.
I know things will continue to develop worldwide in the next few days and weeks. Here in the Netherlands and elsewhere, we might find ourselves in Italy’s shoes in complete and utter lockdown — social distancing at its extreme.
I’m preparing myself for that now with the hope it won’t materialize.
I know you’re probably getting bombarded with articles about the pandemic, but I wanted to write something from an introvert’s perspective. Just because we “quiet ones” enjoy time to ourselves doesn’t mean we’re having an easy time with imposed isolation. So here’s the only request I have:
If you could write five things you’re doing to cope with the crisis, what would they be? Let me know in the comments below.