Picture yourself sinking back into your favorite corner booth at your neighborhood eatery for cocktails with your closest friends. Sounds dreamy, right? A gift of the ordinary that feels so special after the past 14 months. Now, look a little closer. When your friends arrive, do you hug them? Do you try each other’s cocktails? Did anyone beg off? As vaccines continue to rollout, restrictions lift, and we return to something of a new normal, the transition back to social outings and gatherings is a delicate one we’ll all handle a bit differently based on a variety of factors, not the least of which is where we fall on the introversion-extroversion spectrum.
“I’m honestly anxious about having to interact with other people again. As an introvert, of course, I try to mingle with other people even if most of the time I get shy, but now it’s like I’m back to square one,” says Niyla Carson, a nutritionist and self-described introvert.
Psychologist Carl Jung popularized the terms introversion and extroversion in the 1920s. According to his basic definition, introverts need time alone to recharge, while extroverts recharge by being with others. Introverts are generally thought of as quiet and reserved, while extroverts like social gatherings seek out busy environments. And while most people have elements of both introversion and extroversion, they may lean more towards one.
For many extroverts, quarantine was a challenge as their usual channels of connection were cut off. In contrast, for many introverts, especially ones with lifestyles that allowed for it, the pandemic was the chance to work from home and cancel all their plans. Although we’ll all probably be grateful for less Zoom meetings.
“My brothers are more introverted than I am and they’ve loved being home, one of them even said he doesn’t want to tell people he’s vaccinated so he can continue staying home,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Jaclyn Bauer.
We’ve all been affected and handled the pandemic differently, no matter where on the introversion-extroversion scale we fall. Now, as the opportunity for more face-to-face interactions arise, many of us are re-examining what we want those social interactions to look like.
“Extroverts are counting down the days to re-entry, already planning who they’ll meet and where they’ll go, packing their schedules with things to do, people to see and parties to host,” says Rebecca Maxwell of Asentiv New York. “Anxieties will be about fitting it all in and whether everyone else will be as eager to get out and about as they are.”
Most of us are feeling anxious, but Dr. Bauer says it’s important to notice when your anxiety is high and then dig into why that is. Attempt to figure out if you’re anxious because something isn’t safe or are your introverted or extroverted tendencies behind that anxiety.
Here are some tips for jumping (or dipping) back into socialization:
Plan your days: This time of isolation has altered all of our needs and desires. Be purposeful in how you plan your days and with your social interactions. Make sure you still have free time to do the things that interest you and that you continue to prioritize the things that bring joy. For instance, did family dinners become an actual thing when there wasn’t a commute or after school activities to go to and from? Keep up that ritual.
Spend time outside: Sunshine and fresh air are some of the best medicine. As life gets busier again, prioritize getting outside and taking a walk in the fresh air.
Enforce your boundaries: Only allow social interactions when you’re ready. There’s no rush or obligation to meet up with everyone at once. If you’re more comfortable wearing a mask outside, do it. If you want to keep working from home, have that conversation with your managers. Go at your own pace.
Communicate: Find ways to continue communicating with others even if you’re not comfortable going out in person yet. Social connections are essential for our mental health.
Stay present: Hold on to the joy in your current moments. Life is exhausting but this season of life (no matter where it is for you) only happens once..
The world will likely favor introverted tendencies now, small gatherings, walks in the open air, time alone. Be gentle with yourself and others as we all figure out our new normal.