The phrase “social distancing” has made its way into the national discourse in the last few weeks. Countless articles, blog posts, and nightly news features have been dedicated to sharing what that means in real life. We’re supposed to avoid large gatherings, including malls, schools, and festivals, which can be particularly challenging for extroverts.
For an introvert like me, this doesn’t feel like a big ask. Stay at home, read, putter around, and spend several days with my husband and kids? Not too shabby. But I am aware of the impact on the more-gregarious, extroverted folks in my life — the ones who recharge by seeing people. Lots of people.
A common mischaracterization of introverts versus extroverts is that introverts don’t like people and extroverts do. This isn’t exactly accurate. It has less to do with “liking” people (I like lots of people but am an introvert, too) and more to do with what a person needs to refuel. If you are someone who jump starts your own battery by seeing people, going to gatherings or parties, and being around as many people as possible, odds are that you are an extrovert. If you like being around people but have a regular, important need to spend time alone to refuel, you are most likely an introvert.
Social distancing is particularly hard on extroverts, for obvious reasons. Confined to home, they are denied the regular kind of social contact that keeps them feeling optimal. This is fine for most folks on a limited basis, but we don’t know how long this current self-quarantine will last. So what can extroverts do to keep themselves feeling connected and positive in the meantime?
Tips for Extroverts
No one needs to remind an extrovert to make use of social media to nurture relationships electronically. But what if instead of trying to “make up” for the lost social time, you take advantage of the time alone? Here are an introvert’s suggestions for making use of your social isolation.
1) Lean into the discomfort. What would it be like to make use of the quiet for a change? If you absolutely could not reach anyone, what would you do alone? Write a list of activities you would like to try alone, whether it’s trying a new recipe or sampling an online exercise class you have never done before. Make a goal of doing one alone-time activity each day.
2) Practice mindfulness. Being around lots of people can mean constant distraction, which is a draw for many extroverts. But what is it you are distracting yourself from? Is it possible that you have some things you may be trying to avoid or outrun? Regardless of the reason, teaching your mind to stay present and focused on this moment right now can be a powerful skill to learn. And you don’t have to do it alone; there are several great apps that can guide you.
Here are a few:
3) Focus on your dearest and nearest. Does your spouse temporarily “lose” you at parties because you are working the room? Do your kids complain that they can’t go anywhere without you talking to everyone? They may be saying indirectly that they would enjoy a bit of your undivided attention. Take advantage of self-quarantine to really stay present with your loved ones, spending good-quality time with each of them.
4) Put away your phone for a set time each day. This goes along with tip #3. It is hard to be present with those around you when you are simultaneously monitoring your social life through your phone. Undivided time requires that you are not ping-ed, ring-ed, buzzed, or otherwise notified of constant updates. Do yourself and your family a favor and go untethered for a while; you might find that your enhanced presence also benefits your relationships.
We don’t know when our lives will resume a semblance of normalcy, of course. But when it does, wouldn’t it be great if you could say that you made the very most of self-quarantine? With some courage and a willingness to stretch yourself, you may come out of the pandemic scare with some new skills.
Experiencing more than just a little discomfort about your social isolation? If you are noticing yourself getting anxious or depressed, please reach out. Nova Terra Therapy PLC offers online counseling options for folks who may need to stay close to home. Our therapists are skilled, compassionate clinicians who can help you to adjust to your new situation.