Back in the early months of 2020, extroverts got the short end of the stick. Within days of activities being halted, many were gasping for air and wondering how they were going to make it without regular contact with the people and groups that give them their zest and vitality.
Introverts in general took longer to feel the effects of restrictions. I had introverts share with me that it took months before they realized that they were really missing being with their friends. And some found it refreshing to not only be alone but also to have an automatic reason for why they “couldn’t go out.”
But even for introverts, there comes a time where solitude feels isolating and the thought of living as a hermit doesn’t bring warm, fuzzy feelings. If you find yourself in that uncomfortable spot, here are steps you can take to break out of feeling lonely and rediscover enjoying your time on your own.
Validate your feelings
Humans need social interaction. It’s how we’re wired. According to scientist Matthew Lieberman, author of Social, “The data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed.”
Whether you like it or not, your well-being is intrinsically interwoven with the connection—or lack of connection—you experience with others. And one of the things that’s been really interesting for me to observe among my time management coaching clients is that some of my introverted clients miss their coworkers just as much as my extroverted clients. We underestimate the power of the small points of connection, such as talking about your weekend, that help us to feel known and like we have a sense of belonging. Lacking these ties can create a literal feeling of pain and put your body in a state of chronic stress.
It’s important to acknowledge that even as an introvert, you can suffer from loneliness. Validating your feelings instead of denying them is the first step toward feeling reconnected with yourself and others.
Meet your needs
In order to get to a place of enjoying your time apart from people, you need to first satiate your need for human connection. There’s a reason why solitary confinement is a harsh punishment even for those in jail.
Getting the connection you need could include a variety of methods depending on your health situation, social network, and options available to you in your local area. To overcome isolation, meeting in person with someone you know is best if you can get together for a walk, dinner, or other activity. If that’s not possible, a video call can create some feelings of meaningful connection. And finally if you don’t have particular people you can reach out to, take advantage of opportunities where people congregate. It could look like attending a group event, a class, or even going to the store and shopping instead of doing curbside pickup.
Since introverts don’t naturally gravitate toward social activities, you will likely need to plan for connection in advance. If you wait until you feel tired and unmotivated at the end of your day, Netflix will likely win. For example, you may want to text a friend on Monday morning to set up a time to talk or see each other later in the week. You’ll be glad you did.
Invest in quality alone time
As an introvert, you may not need much social time to meet your needs for connection. One or two meaningful times with others a week could be sufficient.
So once you have that established, then you’ll want to invest in satisfying alone time activities. Hours and hours of watching TV or scrolling on your phone will make you feel exhausted and more disconnected than ever. Instead consider exercising, reading, cooking, spending time on an artistic hobby, listening to music, working on something around your home, or doing some other activity you enjoy.
If you’re struggling to decide what those activities might be, think back to what you did pre-smartphone when you had free time. Or think about how you spend your time when you have downtime on a vacation, which activities are most refreshing and rejuvenating to you? Then make a plan to invest in those.
If you’ve already thought in advance about the book you’ll read after work or what you’ll cook, you’re less likely to plop down on the couch with your phone and end up ordering takeout because you’re starving before you thought about making a meal.
As an introvert, the higher level of alone time this winter can be a gift if you still take time to connect and use your time on your own wisely.