As an introvert or highly sensitive person, you may have gotten quite comfortable in your pandemic-nest.
You’ve had time for your favorite things–to read luxuriously, to write courageously, to create freely, to reflect deeply, to sit quietly.
The falling away of social demands has been an immense relief for introverts.
But now you’re being called back to work. Or your friends and colleagues are inviting you to events. Or you have to run certain errands that require you to be in person.
It’s not that you want to decline invitations.
Or not go to events. Perhaps you do want to socialize, see friends, meet new people. Maybe like me, you love meeting new people and having conversations as an introvert… just one-on-one and deep, please. Preferably no big groups that drain your energy as you listen to the talkative ones talk.
When your nervous system space had time to decompress when the world slowed, going back into a mode that doesn’t feel natural is rightfully the last thing your introvert self wants to do.
Yet at the same time, you might feel embarrassed and guilty for saying no. You want to protect your unstructured me-time to relax and create. But how many more invitations can you decline before you no longer have friends?
I feel you.
I love Zoom because
- I can hit “end call,” and be done. I don’t have to drive home afterwards in a daze of social exhaustion, or push myself to stay longer because everyone else is.
- One person speaks at a time, which isn’t as overwhelming as a room of multiple conversations. People mute themselves, and can be muted.
- I can take notes as people speak without appearing to be distracted. This helps me a ton. As a visual and kinesthetic processor, I take in information better when writing. Sometimes my mind goes blank when I have only auditory input and something visual or imaginary competes for my attention. Writing helps me stay really present and listen deeply. Even better, my detailed notes receive commendations by clients and colleagues since I capture their words without changing their language.
- Breakout rooms allow craved 1:1 conversations, making me feel connected. This is much more comfortable than speaking up in a big group I don’t know well. Better yet, I don’t have to make the effort of initiating that 1:1 connection from the group.
- I have more choice around participation than I would feel in-person. It’s easier to take breaks. I can choose whether to be on camera or off. I can participate and benefit from calls that don’t require me to be seen and put together. I don’t have to make direct eye contact.
- Being in my own space means I can set up to get my needs met. I can easily wrap a blanket around my legs when I’m cold. I can adjust my desk ergonomically so I’m not squirming, trying to get comfortable in a foreign chair. I don’t have to find a suitable eatery for my food sensitivities or explain my diet restrictions (vegan and gluten-free).
This doesn’t mean Zoom is a full substitute for life’s social interactions. But I believe the relief of video conferencing speaks to societal norms that reward extroverts. Social norms also hold values that are taxing to the nervous system, like working hard and fast for instant results.
When your body rebels, it’s not you, it’s the system.
Regardless of what the mainstream world would have you believe… There is nothing wrong with you. It’s okay to feel more comfortable online or at a slower pace than the world seems to want you to move.
Here are some journaling prompts to consider when you’re faced with leaving your pandemic nest:
- Awareness: Bring to mind a social pressure that makes your body contract, stomach tighten, mind scream “no!”
- What are your reactions? Become aware of your body sensations, emotions, and thoughts.
- Acknowledgement: Sit with the discomfort to go underneath the feeling to see what you need to know.
- Why are you having this reaction? What about it makes you uncomfortable?
- Acceptance: Affirm the reasons driving this reaction.
- What are your needs which are not being met?
- Application: Decide what choice to make about the situation.
- How can you be in healthy relationship with the situation?
Even if you struggle with social interactions as an introvert or highly sensitive person, that doesn’t mean there aren’t types of social interaction that do work for you.
I believe through knowing yourself deeply, self-acceptance, and self-love, you can create a life that honors and supports you inside and outside of your nest.