I consider myself a pretty hard-core introvert, and I must admit that when my family went into quarantine this past March, there was a part of me that was kind of excited. I was not excited about the idea of a dangerous and deadly virus making its way around the globe, of course. But the idea that I would need to stay at home and distanced from others for the foreseeable future? That didn’t sound that bad to me.
My family has now been quarantined and socially distanced for a total of four months and one week (not that I’m keeping track!) and I can say that although there are definitely some perks to this new lifestyle, it’s not all sunshine and roses even from the perspective of this dyed in the wool introvert.
While everyone is concerned about extroverts not getting the socializing they need to feed their social butterfly souls, perhaps it would be a reprieve for introverts?
Let me tell you why it’s not.
Socializing Is More Overwhelming Than Ever
Before quarantine, I was the type of person who dreaded talking on the phone. If something could be addressed over text or email, I did not see the reason for a phone call, which was both time consuming and emotionally draining.
You see, many of us introverts find socializing stressful, not because we don’t like people, per say, but because the experience can be overwhelming. The small talk, the awkward silences, the overzealous personalities, the compassion fatigue…the list goes on. We introverts tend to feel things and absorb things deeply, especially when it comes to other people. We like interacting with others, but in small, measured doses.
Before the pandemic, there was more choice in how we could interact with others. Maybe a quick text conversation would do it. Maybe a one-on-one coffee date. Maybe a small dinner party. But since the time of quarantine and social distancing, there aren’t that many choices. Or rather, there’s one choice: Zoom.
Yep, basically all meaningful interactions are supposed to happen via online video conferencing these days. And while it might be the best thing we have, for an introvert, socializing digitally can be extremely taxing and exhausting. Zoom fatigue is real, and while it can impact extroverts too, it’s especially difficult for introverts.
The few times I’ve Zoomed over the past few months (thankfully, I don’t have to do that frequently for work), I have felt completely overwhelmed. Ten boxed faces were staring back at me. It was virtually impossible to read anyone’s cues, know when to speak, because I couldn’t tell who was looking at who. And just the sheer number of faces and personalities glaring at me from a screen at once was dizzying.
Socially distanced get togethers — where everyone is masked and sitting is standing six feet away from each other — is not much better. There you are, supposedly hanging out with a friend or family member, but your face is buried beneath a mask (again, making social cues difficult to discern), you are struggling to hear one another, and you are worried sick about breaking the six foot rule. Additionally, it’s difficult both to negotiate the ground rules — will we share food, maintain mask compliance even when outdoors — and to relax, without being overwhelmed by the knowledge that each friend and loved one is a vector for a deadly disease.
Socializing has gotten more stressful than ever, especially for introverts.
Everything Is Amplified — Especially Anxiety
I do love staying at home as much as possible. I’m a true homebody for sure. But the thing is, I like a little variety as well. I love taking walks in nature, spending quiet time one-on-one with friends and family, or in small groups. I love vacationing (without the crowds!). These things feed my introverted, homebody soul in just the same way that socializing and the busy lifestyles do for more extroverted people.
I didn’t even realize how much I relied on those small doses of socializing and engagement until I was quarantined for months inside my house during the pandemic. Living in the New York area in April and May (when we were the epicenter) meant that I rarely, if ever, left my apartment. And let me tell you: being stuck inside for days on end is not good for introverts, especially ones like me who are prone to anxiety. And believe me, a pandemic is more than enough fodder for an already anxious brain.
Really, any sort of mental health challenge can be exacerbated when you are cut off from the rest of the world, starting at the same four walls day in and day out. Many introverted people are also highly sensitive people. I know that each piece of terrible news over the past few months (and there has been a lot!) has really eaten away at my soul. Being cooped up has only made it worse.
How To Get Through Quarantine As An Introvert
For me, I have had to revamp both my socializing approach as well as self-care routines during quarantine.
I have realized that video chatting, especially in large groups, is a no-go for me. But I’ve also realized that not socializing at all is not healthy for me, which was honestly a surprise. Just as it was before quarantine, I love and cherish my friendships, but always prefer one-on-one interactions. In a throwback to my high school days, I’ve enjoyed talking on the phone again. It’s not as overstimulating as Zoom, but provides just the right amount of connection I need.
I have also been making sure to get out of the house as much as possible. Walks have become a necessity for me — and an important release for my anxiety. I’ve also needed to make a greater effort than ever to limit my news consumption. It’s easier said than done, of course. But being stuck at home doesn’t mean I have to be glued to my phone, taking in one horrible story after another.
We have more power than we realize over our moods and our well-being, even in quarantine. And we need to do everything in our power to stay balanced, connected, and healthfully engaged — yes, even us introverts.