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Are introverts okay after a year of isolation?
All of last year has been scary and uncertain, but the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic have been special. Virtually overnight, with little warning, states closed stores and implemented stay-at-home contracts and social distancing policies to keep the virus from spreading. Obviously it was for a greater good, but suddenly many of us could no longer see our friends, our families, or our co-workers. The exceptions to this – like when someone was an essential worker – only made it clearer how isolating and frightening a time was. For countless people, the experience has been lonely and isolating. But there was one group that seemed to adapt a little better than anyone else: introverts. Some were even a little complacent – at least at first. “All health professionals say #StayHome. Okay … where were you when I let my friends and family down with this for years? “The popular Twitter account Introvert Life was released at the beginning of the pandemic. “‘Social distancing’ please, I’ve been training for a pandemic my whole life. Introverts have risen. We’re finally valid,” tweeted YouTube personality Daniel Howell. The term “introverted” was first coined by the psychiatrist Carl Jung, who defined introversion as “dealing with one’s own inner world at the expense of social interactions”. But it gained new popularity after the publication of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking in 2012, which argued that our society dramatically undervalued introverts and made many people proud online their proclaimed introverted status. The modern understanding of introverts is that they enjoy spending time with others but find it emotionally stressful; Extroverts, on the other hand, find socializing stimulating, explains Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, psychologist and founder of the AAKOMA non-profit mental health project. “Introverts are more likely to get their energy and derive their arousal from internal dialogue and what is happening within them. It’s not necessarily shyness, ”she says. Since introverts were enjoying alone time in the early days of the pandemic – before we knew how long home stay orders would span or how many lives the virus would take – many of them saw the COVID-19 regulations as a welcome respite. “I was obviously pretty scared and alarmed by the virus news, but in terms of the slowdown in life and the initial amount of time I spent at home, I thought it was funny to have a blank calendar,” says Jenn Granneman, founder of the Platforms Introverted, affectionate and highly sensitive refuge. “It was pretty exciting for a while, and it was fun to watch shows and relax, have more time to yourself and feel like life was slowing down a bit.” The Tiger King’s new quarantine days, baking bread, wearing tie-sweat suits, were almost invigorating. For some introverts, the year was a welcome change. Lindsey Evans, the host of the podcast that I just don’t have time for, tells Refinery29 that she enjoyed not being around people all the time. “I enjoy working from home and I love that most people distance themselves socially when I go into business,” she says. “I rarely feel like I’m missing out. During the third month of quarantine, I definitely got a little nervous, but the more time goes by, the more I enjoy not being fooled by social interactions that make me uncomfortable. “Many introverts I spoke to agreed that the pandemic released them from the typical pressures they felt to go out – including FOMO, or sense of duty. “So much of my pre-pandemic life felt mandatory in my social interactions, and now that everyone is on the same side of burnout it feels liberating not to have to see and be seen,” says Meghan Rose, a tarot reader based in California. But after a full year of distance, some introverts said their attitudes had changed. “I think I entered the pandemic introverted and now I am extroverted,” says Taylor, a Los Angeles-based HR professional. “I want to speak more than ever.” “I think I entered the pandemic introverted and now I am extroverted. I want to speak more than ever. “Taylor, HR expert At the start of the quarantine, Taylor said she wasn’t at all worried about staying at home and not interacting with others like she used to. “It just wasn’t great for me,” she says. “Before COVID, my weekends were quieter and more relaxing and weren’t around a lot of people.” But loneliness began to take hold as the weeks passed into months – so much so that she formed a “capsule” with friends and now makes plans with one or more members on most weekends. “This is a big change for me,” she says. Taylor is not alone. The University of Wollongong’s Australia-based School of Psychology recently looked at how 114 people fared during the pandemic and found that higher overall introversion was associated with higher levels of loneliness, depression and anxiety. Introverts often turn inward when dealing with stress and anxiety rather than asking others for help, the study authors explained. This may have resulted in many introverts becoming victims of what Dr. Breland-Noble referred to as “the time of mismatch alone,” which she describes as quarantine as an excuse not to get the quality of human interaction we need. “I think everyone should have some balance between being fully engaged with people outside of them and being fully aware and present for themselves,” she says. However, the past year has thrown the balance off balance: we have much more time to focus mostly on our own thoughts and a serious lack of connection with others. At the same time, our stress level was never higher. It’s not a great combination for anyone – introverts or extroverts. Another thing to remember is that for some introverts, virtual social interactions can be just as energy draining as IRL interactions. “The workload has increased, there are even Zoom meetings all the time [Zoom] social events, ”says Dr. Laurie Helgoe, clinical psychologist, associate professor of behavioral science at Ross University School of Medicine, and author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength. “There is a lot of inspiration coming from the pandemic. It’s a different kind of stimulation and that was a challenge. “That’s why some introverts still feel socially burned out. Granneman points out that whether or not an introvert thrived during the pandemic also depends on each person’s individual situation. “In the broadest sense, a major misconception is that the pandemic has affected all introverts equally,” she says. “It depends so much on your life and work situation.” For some introverts, a dream has come true. “I know some introverts who say, ‘Oh, this is great, I don’t want to go back to normal life, don’t let me go back to normal life.’ And for others, they are stuck at home with their families, their children study far away, maybe their job was affected in some way and that is absolute hell for them. “Take Evans, for example.” I live with my fiancé, the is also introverted, “she says.” It was good because I get some kind of social interaction every day, but it’s also harder to make the time come true on my own. I definitely had a few breakdowns because I didn’t have enough time to fully recharge me. “As we near a year of pandemic and a year of near-constant isolation for many, Granneman is less excited about staying home all the time than he was when the lockdown began.” I feel ready to spend more time having people, which might be strange for an introvert, “she says.” I think I feel trapped in my house and now I’m ready to go back to normal. “She added,” Though I’m safe that ic h will beg within a week, when I am back to normal, I will beg to just be alone again. “There is still so much that we don’t know how much time a year for yourself and going through it this traumatic time has changed us. But we know we have to do one thing – move forward. “I think my weekend socializing will likely slow down a bit when I’m back in an office and have to be more extroverted at work,” says Taylor. “But I think I won’t take it for granted to be with other people. It will just be another transition. ” Do you like what you see? How about a little more R29 grade, right here? What is “Pandemic Window Shopping”? Our sense of time ran out a year ago. Why do I feel guilty when I get the vaccine?