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The Introvert in Isolation

Updated: May 15, 2020

These are strange times for many of us as the Coronavirus pandemic sweeps the world and puts new challenges and pressures on all of us. Everyone will be responding differently to a world of lockdowns, restrictions and social distancing. Hopefully you are staying safe and well in these unprecedented circumstances.

So many people are finding it difficult from the perspective of being isolated from other people. Working from home, engaging with people via videoconferencing, maintaining a safe distance from your loved ones, a lack of social gatherings and events…for some people (those more extraverted types) it is definitely a difficult time. They are stuck at home, locked away from the world, keeping their distance when all they want to do is go out, see friends, visit places and take part in activities surrounded by lots and lots of other people.

But what about the more introverted among us? What is lockdown life looking like for you?

Let’s start by clarifying the difference, because it is not always easy to pin down. Generally speaking, if you are an outgoing and outspoken individual who finds pleasure in engaging with other people – usually in large, diverse groups – you are an extrovert. If you are more comfortable being self-contained and reserved – perhaps preferring your own company and solitude to most forms of interaction with other human beings – then you can be classed as an introvert. There are different psychological tests and questionnaires you can take to give you a flavour but most people know in their heart which camp they fall into as a rule.

The best test for this is when you are a group or a large gathering, at the moment you feel the most relaxed, count how many people are in close proximity to you. If it’s none, you are definitely the introverted type!

If you are an extrovert, the COVID-19 pandemic might be a really challenging time. You want to be out in the world and socialising with lots of different people, either known or strange to you. You want the joys of companionships and friendships that are currently off limits to you. Your mental health may be suffering at the moment as you struggle with adjusting to a different way of living than that which you are used to in “normal” times. This lack of freedom can feel suffocating for so many.

However, the challenges are very different if you are an introvert. For some (and I will hold my hand up and include myself in this) the lockdown situation might be you living your best life! Avoiding awkward social situations, keeping your distance from people who may be triggers for specific anxieties, staying in a safe place that can be relaxing and therapeutic for you and your needs…does that sound good to you?

It has opened our eyes to a new world that is slanted towards the introverted.

At work

Workers can benefit from working at home, where a more comfortable environment improved by those little “home comforts” can make for a more productive attitude to work (for some, it might give you the freedom to become better at your job). From stressful travel times to no commute, you might benefit from a little longer sleep in the mornings. Even those who work with others can use technology such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to stay in touch with their colleagues and continue to achieve their work objectives, all while staying snuggled in their slippers!

At play

Boredom is one common challenge that most affects the extroverts because they usually enjoy the freedom of going different places and doing different things to relieve that boredom. Yes, isolation can be limiting but your imagination is unlimited. This might be the perfect time – while you are stuck at home – to learn a new skill, catch up with your favourite pastimes and hobbies, broaden your horizons. Even without the internet and the wonderful worlds it can open up to you, there are so many things you can do at home that require very little resources and help you to develop and grow as a person.

With family

Many have commented on the challenges of childcare and schooling but while co-ordinating a locked down household might seem daunting, it requires the same set of skills you would need for parenting in “normal” times. Planning, patience, persistence, all Parenting 101. The biggest benefit to families in this environment is that it gives you the chance to enhance your attachment to each other and build strength in your family unit. I admit, it might not always seem that positive but if you are not usually at home as much as you are now, you might find that your children are forming deeper bonds with you now than they ever have.

If all of this sounds wonderful to you, congratulations, you are as introverted as a shy snail stuck in its shell.

But there is a risk to be aware of…

The human race is a sociable one by nature. Even if you identify as introverted, the truth is that we all need people in some shape or form in order to survive. Whether that is your family giving you moral support, your friends giving you a respite from the monotony, or the occasional contact with a stranger…it is all vital to your psyche. The world has already taken massive strides to making it easier for you to live your whole life in your own home (food deliveries, online gaming, learning by the internet, the ever-expanding reach of Amazon). But you can never get the warm feeling of human contact from the world wide web!

Every story is different and every storyteller even more so. For those enjoying the perks of isolation, there are many others less fortunate. Victims of domestic abuse, elderly people struggling to survive alone, children kept apart from parents when they need to be together, blossoming love which withers from these degrees of separation. These are far from easy times but that does not mean that isolation cannot teach us some lessons which will benefit our society in the longer term.

So, finish this blog, go to look at yourself in the mirror and think about how this situation is affecting you now. Introvert or extrovert, there will be many pros and cons to consider. It might not be easy enough to label your experience as either “good” or “bad” but take the time to reflect on not only the present but the future. At some point, society will shift to a new “norm” and we have the opportunity now to influence what that brave, new world will look like. Take this opportunity for yourself and make the most of it because chances to influence the future like this are very rare and if you miss this opportunity, who knows what world we wake up to when the virus is finally defeated.

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