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Returning to Normality: The Introvert’s Dilemma
After social isolation, it will be a shock to our new-normal-systems to go back to lots of interaction at work, with family, and with friends. Homo sapiens are a species of habit! Anything that wanders away from the regular, the understood, and the already experienced—is a source of terrible fright and must be avoided at all costs.
For me, entering lockdown wasn’t such a jolting experience. All of a sudden, I was forced—by law, to stay at home all day, order takeaways or deliveries rather than going out to the grocery store and restaurants, and avoid my friends. It sounded like my typical week: I didn’t notice the difference. Okay, I exaggerate, but I nonetheless did enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to slow down and discover aspects of my identity that the everyday pace of the rat-race doesn’t allow for.
Entirely unexpectedly, my fifteen-week hiatus from humanity gave me the breathing space to pause and ponder. After I caught up on the months’ worth of sleep that the professional lifestyle just doesn’t accommodate for, I found a passion for Instrumental music, Thai cooking, and memorizing the location of countries on the map around the Globe.
And no, I’m not selling to you my toxic productivity: don’t worry I gave up on memorizing the location of countries on the map and still can’t remember whether North America is in the Western hemisphere or South America. The point is, for many of us lockdown helped us invaluably.
I can’t stress how important it was for me to rekindle lost, long-distance relations and friendships via video chats (something I would never have had time to think of without lockdown), how powerful it was to rebuild bonds with the parents and grandparents I thought I’d never get a chance to live with again. And now suddenly, everything is reopening!
Of course, I share in the excitement of the masses about cafes and restaurants and summer visits to the mountains. Though, I have already normalized the habit of owning the hours of my day, of working from home, and of only visiting abroad when tuning into Netflix’s Dark. On the other hand, I am beyond relieved that the effects of this deadly pandemic are subsiding.
But to those tripping over their shoelaces to get back to the night outs, parties and cinemas, I say: spare a thought for those of us who are creatures of habit and are slightly anxious about social life relaunching just as now.
For many of us, if we haven’t yet entirely forgotten the laws of social sensibility, we certainly need a few revision sessions. We are all excited about the Great Reopening, but for some of us, it is tinged with a hint of anxiety. Packed-out cafes, queued eateries, and crowded stadiums have become alien, and there will be a great deal of stress among people who had to work hard to develop their social skills. For the introverts, returning to normality will be a gradual process rather than a sudden leap, and I believe that is fine: we all work at our own pace.
The Great Reopening
Doing normal chores can make you go a little antsy at times. Yet as an extreme introvert myself, I’ve enjoyed having my social obligations cut down dramatically.
Eventually, we’ll all go back to our normal social lives. Although some things may never be the same — perhaps your work situation has changed, your routines are disrupted — we’ll no doubt be invited to reunite with friends and family we haven’t seen since the quarantine.
Our hectic schedules, in essence, will arise roaring back. And in some ways, this is a good thing; we need our sense of normalcy back.
Yet it might also be a difficult transition for introverts. After living almost exclusively socially isolated lives for at least the past months, our systems will require readjusting time when we have to go back to lots of interaction at work, with family, and in our communities.
Normally, when I have a big social obligation coming up, either with one person or with many, I have a process I go through, both beforehand to prepare myself, and afterwards to cool myself down. It might sound strange to those who aren’t introverts, but that’s what I need. So, as introverts, we need to start thinking now about how we will prepare ourselves to go back into the real world again.
Social interaction is important; it’s what holds the world together. And that’s why it’s so important that introverts think about this ahead of time. Here are 4 things that I believe we as introverts need to be doing now so we’re ready when the quarantine is completely over.
4 Things Introverts Should Do Now
Practice social interaction
I don’t know about you, but even as an adult, I’m still socially awkward sometimes. I have a hard time coming up with things to say in social situations, and I’m not good at carrying long conversations. I fear I’m getting rusty at it by not being at work every day or otherwise talking with others in public like I normally do.
That’s why — even though sometimes the introvert in me fights it — I’m trying to take advantage of every possible interaction I can. I live in a house with my husband and lots of pets, and I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to communicate with them, as I realize this is important to do at a time when I don’t have many other people to talk to in person.
I’m also taking advantage of all our current technology to interact with others via video chat and via social media. Then there’s my favorite way to communicate with other people, which is writing of course, and I’m doing that right now. I am especially using my extra time at ‘daily-life’ to write more.
In these ways, I’m trying to keep my social skills sharp so I can hit the ground running when everything opens back up. At least I am hoping that crossing my fingers!
Revel in your alone time
On the one hand, this quarantine has given me a better understanding of human interaction, even though as an introvert I need this less than other people do. I’ve also learned more about the significance of alone time. I’ve had more alone time than usual during the past two months, and though I’ve always known how important it is to me, I’ve gained a greater acknowledgment and appreciation of it.
Usually, I’m so busy that I neglect time for myself, even feeling mortified for stealing it. Yet I’d like to reason I won’t feel as guilty about it after going through these state of affairs. Since I will have less alone time, I will treasure it more. These memories will become all the more significant to help me recover from all the social interaction I will have to have again.
Tell others about your need for alone time
Maybe you’re an introvert married to an extrovert like in my case, or you otherwise have a lot of extroverts in your surroundings. They’re perhaps dying to get back to relive that previous normal life so they can have human contact again. The transition is going to be much different for them because they’ve had to go without something so important to them for a long time. Respect that.
At the same time, extroverts need to respect the fact that alone time is still important to you as an introvert. Yet, I fear they won’t fully understand this unless we communicate it to them. Let them know that if, after all this time without human contact, you still need to be by yourself a lot — and it’s not because you don’t like them or don’t want to be around them.
Be clear about it. If you haven’t communicated this well in the past (as I often haven’t), now is the time to do so.
When we get back to normal life, take it slow
If I go a long time without running or exercising, I’m sore for a few days after my first time doing it in a while, because it comes as a shock to my body. That’s what will happen to you as an introvert if you move too swiftly to be social when this quarantine is over.
When we can start going back out and doing things again, don’t try to prove to yourself or to anyone else that you can do a lot of socializing right away. Start with a small gathering that is short. Then take your time to absorb and avoid much social interaction so you can properly recover to avoid overwhelming yourself. Then, maybe try something a little bigger.
Introverts need to have a strong sense of self-awareness, and now it’s as important as ever. Know what you’re emotionally capable of and don’t do more than that. If you’re self-aware in this regard, you’ll come out of this quarantine emotionally healthy.
And that’s what all of us want. A lot of us are already struggling in a lot of ways, so let’s make this transition easier and comfortable for people around us as much as we can.
Introverts, are you ready to relive the “normal” life? How are you preparing? Let us know about the tricks and tips you have in mind.
tagged: Introvert’s Dilemma, New normal, Practice social interaction, returning to normality