Who would have thought that as a solitude-loving introvert, I would hate self-isolation, yet here I am on the struggle bus.
We’re now a few weeks into social distancing, and I’m still having an extremely difficult time adjusting to it. I’m not sure if it’s due to my naturally rebellious or hard-headed nature, or because I am also prone to anxiety and bouts of mood shifts tied to stress.
It is also spring and I am unable to enjoy it the way I normally would. This is a staycation that has worn out its welcome. And as someone whose moods are elevated in spring and summer, I usually take the time to get out and enjoy myself after winter months of being inside and being less socially engaged.
Naturally the current pandemic has all of us spending more time online and on social media, and honestly, I have been a little annoyed by what I’m seeing: my fellow introverts making light of how others are dealing with this isolation.
Please believe me when I say that no one is immune to struggling right now, even introverts.
Introversion Is Not Monolithic
We are all different. My challenge with isolation doesn’t make me less of an introvert. It simply makes me human.
A month ago, I would have told you I could handle this with ease, but after a few weeks, here I am on the struggle bus. Surprisingly this is not the paradise I thought it would be. A couple “snow days” here and there, and I was in hog heaven, but a forced indefinite period of isolation, and I am ready to be awakened from this nightmare.
The ISFJ, my personality type, is known as one of the most social of all the introverted Myers-Briggs types. While we ISFJs value our alone time to recharge, we also highly value community, friends, and family, and we take advantage of socializing when we are up to it. We are also creatures of habit, and as article after article points out, change can be very unsettling for us.
Undoubtedly, this pandemic has come with huge changes that none of us could have anticipated. So for me, perhaps more than some other introverts, it has been difficult to adjust.
No One Is Immune to Struggling Right Now
Since government-mandated social distancing began, my 9-year-old daughter is home every day. That means home academic lessons, daily meal cooking, and no regular work routine for me — more factors throwing me off track. And as a single parent, it’s not easy to handle all of it alone. I rarely have the option to recharge in solitude when I want to because I am so busy being a mom and sticking to a daily routine to make sure shit gets done all on my own.
Another thing we need to remember is depression and anxiety can affect us all, introvert or extrovert, especially during scary times like this. Isolation can lead to or worsen depression for many people. It doesn’t matter what kind of introvert you are, nobody is immune. For me, simply getting out and going to work for a few hours was the highlight of my day. During this trying time, I actually miss interacting with other humans and the children I work with as a non-profit program director.
The other reality is that for many Americans, home life is nowhere near as great as it is for me or some others. Domestic violence has increased worldwide, according to the New York Times. In the U.S. alone, 17 million people have filed for unemployment, according to The Washington Post, making the unemployment rate the worst since the Great Depression. The inability to provide can make being at home even more cumbersome, no matter what type of introvert you are.
It’s Okay to Feel What You Feel
It’s incredibly advantageous for us all to remember:
- It’s okay to not be okay.
- It’s okay to be having a hard time with social distancing, even if you’re an introvert.
- It’s okay to not want to be alone.
- Your feelings, whatever they may be, are valid.
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What’s Working for Me
If you are having a hard time like me during the crisis, here are some things that are working for me:
1. Get outside.
Sunlight makes your body produce vitamin D, which helps regulate mood and facilitates immune function. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression, anxiety, and seasonal affective disorder. During a crisis such as this, it’s a good time to catch some rays (if you’re still allowed to go outside). Sit on your porch, jog around the neighborhood, or get some yard work done.
Journaling or blogging is a great way to give ourselves some therapy, for writers to increase their portfolios, or simply to document this trying time.
3. Take a drive.
If you have cabin fever, taking a drive is an excellent way to get out of the house, listen to some music, and catch some scenery while also practicing social distancing.
4. Stay in touch with family and friends.
Even introverts need some level of social contact. Take the time to check on friends and loved ones using Zoom, Facetime, or yes, even a simple phone call.
Many of us are at home with our children or loved ones, so it’s hard to find time and a private space to recharge alone. Get creative and grab any little time in your day for healthy solitude.
Not only is it beneficial for your health and immune system, but it can also be done from anywhere. It can help control your weight when many of us are home raiding the fridge more than normal. It will aid your body in managing blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as improve your mental health, mood, and sleep.
There Is a Myth That Being an Introvert Means This Is Easy
And that is simply false. Assuming that everyone handles things like you leads to less understanding of other people’s lives, not only as it relates to this health crisis, but also in other areas of life. We are not all the same, because we all come from different places and have different experiences.
After all, when it comes to our current situation, it’s more than just staying home — it’s a global pandemic, and it’s scary as hell. No amount of alone time or being inside can lessen the anxiety that many of us feel on a day-to-day basis for reasons that are almost endless.
Let’s focus less on calling out those who are having a hard time with this and more on using this time to promote understanding of what we individually are feeling — and embrace the fact that nobody’s situation is the same.
We are going to get through this. Let’s be the change we wish to see and remember that we all experience different emotions, no matter where we are on the introvert spectrum. How you are feeling in this moment is valid, no matter what it may be.