Many introverts have come to love their quiet little bubble, their empty calendar, and their slower pace of life.
There’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. The COVID-19 vaccine is available to every adult in the U.S., and my coworkers and I have been giddy with excitement about finally traveling again.
But… I’m not ready to go back to normal. I’ll never be. Yes, I’m ready to travel and see family and friends again and feel safe eating inside a restaurant, but I’m not ready for the social invites and small talk and in-person conferences and going back into the office. In fact, reentry fear among introverts is common.
The truth is, I’ve grown to love my quiet little bubble with my husband, our empty calendar, slower pace of life, and having the COVID “excuse” to use (as needed).
Like It or Not, the Post-Pandemic World Will Be Different
The post-pandemic world will look different than the world we all knew back in March of 2020. I think we’ve all been feeling an emotional weight that’s heavier than we realize, and likely internalizing a lot of stress and fear over the past year. I know I have been, and I’m hoping we’re all going to feel lighter as we begin easing out of the worst of the pandemic.
But as we anticipate this new chapter of our lives, it’s a critical time for introverts if we want to keep some of the bliss and quiet and slower pace we’ve been enjoying during the past year. These five steps can help you begin transitioning to post-pandemic life… on your terms.
5 Ways to Transition to Post-Pandemic Life
1. Reflect on what you’ve learned these past several months.
Remember the memes and articles about how easy life was for introverts when the lockdown began? Many of us found the silver lining and fully embraced being able to work from home, stay home more, and do less in a far quieter world.
But the pandemic was still challenging for us, and you may have struggled with empathy and Zoom fatigue, or had to navigate quarantining with extroverted family members, kids, or roommates while trying to maintain your sanity.
Yes, it’s tempting to put 2020 permanently in the rearview mirror, but it’s so important to first reflect on what you learned during this extremely challenging year and use it to intentionally create a far better 2021. So, I encourage you to take at least five minutes to free-write the answer to this question:
What have you learned during the past several months — about yourself, about how you work best, and about what you need to be the best version of yourself?
Reflecting on the lessons 2020 taught — or tried — to teach us can give us clues about what we want our lives to look like going forward. It can also help reinforce some of the deeper lessons.
For example, a lesson I’ve been learning throughout this season is to focus on what I can control and let go of the rest. When I started writing about this, I was able to identify additional areas that I’ve been holding onto and began the process of letting go. It also gave me a documented reminder of how important it is for me to keep applying this lesson to every area of my life.
2. Decide what you want your life to look like going forward.
Unless you know what you want, there’s a good chance you’ll revert right back to your pre-pandemic habits. This is simply human nature — we gravitate toward familiarity.
So, using the information from your response to the question above, decide what you want your life to look like going forward, and write that down in detail.
Here are four questions that can help you decide what you want:
- What are some things that took up time and space in your life before the pandemic began that you may not want to reintroduce?
- What did you do, create, or experience during the past year that you’re really proud of?
- What are the new routines and new things you’ve discovered during 2020 that you want to keep doing, regardless of what the world’s “new normal” looks like?
- What have you discovered that you need to thrive as an introvert, both at work and in your relationships?
Personally, I am committed to keeping the amount of space I have in my life right now. I’ve learned that the best weekends are the ones without any plans, and since my social battery doesn’t seem to hold its charge like it used to, I am only willing to make plans with friends every other weekend.
That’s non-negotiable. I have gotten so used to spending time with just my husband, that no matter how much I enjoy an afternoon hanging out with friends, it really drains my energy.
3. Unapologetically ask for what you need.
Now that you’ve defined what you want, it’s critical to commit to asking for what you need — unapologetically. This is a tough one for introverts, myself included, but just because our needs may seem different from “everyone else’s” they’re likely not, and they’re just as legitimate.
Nearly half of the population is introverted, and that means there’s a good chance half of your friends, half of your coworkers, and maybe even half of your family is introverted, as well, with similar needs.
But we can’t expect anyone else to know what we need until we begin to communicate these things, and it helps to be unapologetic about it because that allows us to set expectations. Besides, extroverts are rarely apologetic about what they need. Why should we be?
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4. Set boundaries and be consistent, like when it comes to work vs. non-work hours.
This brings us to the importance of setting boundaries, which is a form of asking for what we need.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when my entire company went fully remote, the way we all worked changed. Suddenly, work and home lives were blended together and a lot of my coworkers started working much longer hours. We were encouraged to turn on our video during meetings, and virtual happy hours began appearing on my calendar.
So, I started logging off our company messaging app when I finished the workday to avoid getting a message at 10 p.m. that I’d feel compelled to answer. I was honest with my boss about how draining virtual happy hours were for me — especially at the end of a workweek when what I really needed was to recharge — and declined those invites.
In short, I set very clear boundaries and, because I was consistent, those boundaries were respected by everyone.
Many of us are now faced with a return to the office, full-time or as part of a hybrid model, and you may be both dreading this and wondering how you’re ever going to do it.
The answer, if you don’t have a ton of say in this area, is to set firm boundaries. Think about what you need to thrive as an introvert in the office environment, get creative, and strategize to figure out how you can make that happen. Then have the conversation with the people who can either give you permission or help you achieve this.
There is more openness to diverse working styles and preferences than ever before, and now is the time to make significant strides toward an office environment that is conducive to the way introverts are wired.
5. Commit to being honest — if you don’t want to attend another virtual happy hour, just say so. It’s OK!
I learned the importance of this final step when I began seeing the virtual happy hour invites roll in from my boss. At first, I declined with a convenient excuse, but then realized that I owed him the truth.
I sent an email letting him know that at the end of the workday, what I need most is to disconnect and recharge from the week, so I would be declining these invites. I also let him know I understand that many on our team need this kind of connection, and I think it’s great that he’s doing this for them.
That freed me from any guilt I had around saying no, and made me feel grateful for the opportunity to educate him about how different the needs of extroverts and introverts really are.
It’s so important to educate others because extroverts tend to boldly verbalize their needs while us introverts stay quiet about them. Let’s at least give our coworkers and friends the understanding they need to accommodate our needs, if they decide to do so. Especially since they might surprise us.
Fellow introverts, how will you transition back to “normal” life?
Ready to transition to post-pandemic life on your own terms? Check out my on-demand workshop, designed to help introverts go even deeper and intentionally create their new normal.