Introverts are also having a hard time coping with social distancing.

Enough memes are going around about how the current worldwide measures have no impact on introverts. You know, because we like to isolate ourselves during normal conditions….ha ha. That couldn’t be further than the truth. Sure, I re-energize through alone time, but I need social interaction to survive as an introvert and an INFJ. Like everyone else, being stuck at home is not the lifestyle I would choose for myself, especially when it means being stuck at home with an extroverted husband and a toddler. One that has double my husband’s energy.

So, I want to point out that introverts are having a tough time coping with social distancing.

And for those of us who have anxiety, the next few weeks (months?!) will feel like an eternity.

We’re either having a difficult time getting through the day (holy moly, how will I survive another HOUR of this maddening reality?!), or we’re projecting how we feel right now into the future (holy moly, this is my life forever!).

Either way, it’s not sustainable if you end up trapped in your mind. 

With such a fast turn of events, it’s easy to unravel and fall into the “what if” game.

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What if…

  • My company lays off people? (maybe it’s already happening)
  • The economy doesn’t bounce back?
  • I can’t find a job?
  • This is going to reoccur next year?
  • Do I have to give birth at home?

Ok, maybe the last one is just me. I won’t lie, thoughts like these trap me all the time. But I’m making a conscious effort to steer away from them, knowing that I literally have NO control over the situation.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose industry is still going strong, and you finally get to work from home in peace. As introverts, isn’t that all we can hope for? Some peace and quiet to think. But for others, we might be facing an extremely uncertain future. And being stuck in the house with our own thoughts can truly be a damaging experience.

I’m one of the ones whose peace and quiet have been taken away by this crisis.

See, a few days ago, the Netherlands declared that everything is closed until April 6th. Including schools and daycares. Cue, a nightmare.

I went from being ecstatic at working from home for a couple of weeks (finally, some time to finish my social anxiety course!) to being horrified (I’m going to be stuck with a 3-year-old for 3 WHOLE WEEKS!). I almost broke down. I knew it was a pivotal moment and that the thoughts I let in would determine how the next few weeks would unfold. As an introvert, I know how easy it is to slip into a dreamlike state. We’re good at imagining all types of scenarios taking place. The moment I get into such a mindset, it’s hard for me to get out of it. This is why I need to be mindful not to fall into it in the first place.

Preventative measures are mandatory in times like these.

So, let me tell you how I’m coping with social distancing as an INFJ and HSP.

AKA someone that needs a lot of alone time, away from the commotion. Unfortunately, that’s out of the question as I’m stuck in a house with a rambunctious toddler and an extroverted husband. For me, it’s really all about staying above the anxiety and not letting it get to me to the point where I lose my cool.

 1. I’m level-setting my expectations.

I know this experience will be harder than I imagine, so I need to handle this challenge mentally. My expectation from now on is that I won’t have time to work on my projects until my son goes to bed. As a creative, I can’t just sit down for half hours impromptu throughout the day and start writing. To combat this reality, I’m going to make sure that I get at least one thing done a day that gets me closer to my goal. Before enacting social distancing, I had a huge daily to-do list, but now I know my time is restricted. I have to pick one thing to accomplish by the time I go to bed. This will help me relax a bit and make me feel somewhat productive. Ensure you set the right expectations in place so that you don’t end up exploding inside when things don’t work out a certain way.

2. I’m adjusting my schedule.

Because I don’t have the time that I want to have during the day, I will magically create time. As someone who LOVES and NEEDS sleep, I’m going to sacrifice that and wake up a couple of hours early to get some writing in. It’s the only way I can tame my resentment at not being able to have the free time I envisioned I would have. If it just so happens that I have a bad night, I’m going to push an extra hour after my son’s bedtime. The most important thing we can practice during such a time is flexibility. Not just of our schedule, but our mind. For example, I can’t be angry at missing the morning hours from time to time. I’ll have to re-assess throughout the day and see where I can catch up. See if you can create a freeform schedule in your mind with how you want your day to go, but add some padding in there for the unexpected distraction to happen.

3. I’m grieving my planned activities.

Like all of you, I had plans for the next coming month. My birthday is coming up, my son’s birthday is coming up, my 10th anniversary is coming up – all within days of each other. We had a trip planned to France for a few days to get away on a babymoon before the second baby comes. My best friend booked a weekend to stay with us. I had tickets to an interesting conference that got canceled. My massages got rescheduled, and my prenatal yoga was postponed. The list goes on and on. I’m grieving each one of these separately. If I let myself be angry at missing all of these things, I’m going to rip myself away from the current reality, which is the one thing I don’t want to do. Staying in the present and coping with social distancing measures as they evolve is the only thing I can do to stay sane. Think of all the things you had planned or wanted to do in the next few months, and then let them go.

4. I’m grateful for the positive aspects.

They say that practicing gratitude is the way to a healthier mind. In times like these, when anxiety runs high, it’s even more important to say out loud the things we’re grateful for. Because there’s always something. Here’s my list of things that I’ve grateful for:

  • I spend time with my son before his sister comes in June and changes the whole family dynamic.
  • I can learn to really be in the moment without letting the future affect how I feel.
  • Springtime is here, and the sun is finally shining even though we can’t go anywhere.
  • I’m saving multiple hours a day by not commuting to work.
  • I get to stay in bed longer with my son in the morning without needing to be anywhere or do anything.

You don’t have to write it down, but when you get into a state of panic, wondering how you’re going to make it out alive, think of something you’re grateful for. I promise it helps.

5. I’m indulging whenever possible.

The phrase treat yo’ self never felt more relevant than now. I’m making it my current life motto because if I don’t have something to look forward to every day, I’ll capsize. Pancakes for breakfast. Oreo cookies after dinner. Hot coffee throughout the day. I’m not holding back on making the small moments count. When I found out that Disney was releasing Frozen II earlier than expected, I put that on my list of things to look forward to. It might seem minor, but if we have something we can do as a family and it’s novel, then it’s a double win. I made sure to stock up on chips, popcorn, and cookies for this special event. Add some sweetness to your day.

I know that things will continue to develop worldwide in the next few days and weeks. We might find ourselves in Italy’s shoes in complete and utter lockdown, unable to leave our homes. Coping with social distancing at its extreme.

I’m preparing myself for that now but with the hope that it won’t materialize.

I know everyone is getting bombarded with articles and newsletters about how the coronavirus, but I wanted to write something from the introvert’s perspective because this turn of events also impacts us. Just because we enjoy time to ourselves doesn’t mean we’re having an easy time coping with imposed isolation. So here’s the only request I have:

If you could write 5 things about coping with social distancing, what would they be?

This article was featured in Introvert, Dear.