Not-New-Year's-Resolutions For Introverts
Some food for thought for alleviating introvert stress.
Posted Dec 27, 2019
I have always loved the transition from the old year to the new—the clean slate concept; that fresh, unsullied year just waiting for us to make the best of it, we hope.
I’m not going to suggest new year’s resolutions because research finds that we’re better at making them than at keeping them. Instead, I’m going to suggest you look at the introvert-related stress points in your life right now, choose one you would like to change, and try one of these suggested solutions. I realize life isn’t always cut and dried and your mileage may vary, but at least give it a little thought as you enter this spankin’ fresh new year. Maybe there’s an easy way to be a happier, calmer introvert.
The problem: You feel overextended and exhausted more often than not.
Think about this: Do you frequently find yourself not enjoying supposedly fun things? Do you find yourself reluctantly dragging yourself out of the house to fulfill yet another obligation? Do you recognize when you are on the verge of being overextended or does it only occur to you when it’s too late? Do you then start ghosting people or backing out at the last minute?
Try this: Familiarize yourself with your limits. Learn to recognize when you are reaching the end of your rope before you’re dangling. Are you a one activity a week person? Do you simply not have the juice for fun after a day of work? Are you happiest if Sunday truly is a day of rest? All that is fine, you just have to recognize and respect your own limits. I try to schedule at least a day between social commitments, and I rarely schedule two events in one day. I’m also not a morning person, so if I can avoid scheduling anything before, say, 10 a.m., I will. Remember, except for work (in most cases), you have a lot of control over your own schedule. Don’t get bullied into believing otherwise.
Then teach yourself to say “no.” I promise you, declining an invitation is lots less offensive to people than bailing out at the last minute. Don’t feel guilty, don’t make up excuses. Be kind but remember that it’s your time and you are entitled to do with it what you want. Be cool, be casual --“I’m going to stay in that night, I need some introvert time.” People will get it. Don’t get caught up arguing with anyone who tries to persuade you otherwise. You are the expert on you.
The payoff: You’ll find yourself with a lot more energy for the things you enjoy. In addition, you’ll find yourself enjoying social activities more if you’re not constantly on the verge of burnout. And finally, friends will appreciate knowing that if you commit to an invitation, you will be there. Last-minute cancellations are a bummer.
The problem: You are isolated and not meeting people you can relate to.
Think about this: What efforts are you making? Are you waiting for people at work to include you in their after-work plans? (Tell the truth: How much do you really want to go to happy hour?) Do you scurry out the door at the end of the day and rush home to sit on your couch and feel lonely? Are you using your introversion as an excuse to avoid people, then resenting people for not reaching out to you?
Try this: Join an organization that interests you. A book club, a political organization, a tropical fish collectors club—whatever. The key is finding a group that has regular meetings so you see the same people every time and can warm up to them at your own pace. Plus, you have an easy topic of conversation in whatever the focus of the group is. Remember, though, not to scurry out the door at the end of the meeting. Force yourself to linger and chitchat. Try to say “yes” if other members decide to go out for a post-meeting coffee. And if the group does other activities, such as volunteering, join in. A lot of making friends has to do with showing up.
The payoff: Friends. Maybe they won’t all be soul connections but that’s OK. Deep connections take time, and you have to start somewhere. Besides, research finds great value in even weak connections. Don’t put pressure on these new connections, just let them develop at a natural pace. Eventually you will recognize someone who has the potential for a deeper kind of friendship. That’s when you stick your neck out and extend an invitation—perhaps a post-meeting coffee.
And even if you don’t make the friends you hope for, if you chose a group that genuinely interests you, you will deepen your knowledge or commitment. Nothing wrong with that.
Trust me, this works. I was in the isolation rut a few years ago, then I got politically active. Meetings, events, volunteer opportunities followed. Suddenly I find myself with new, like-minded friends whom I like tons.
The problem: You frequently find yourself in social situations that make you want to crawl into a cave and take a nap.
Think about this: Are you in control of your social life or are you letting it come to you? Introverts can be passive about seeking out people, since our motivation is so low, which means that we are more likely to accept invitations from others than extend them ourselves. And who is most likely to extend invitations? Extroverts. Are you more likely to accept an invitation than to extend one? That’s a good way to end up in exhausting more-the-merrier scenes.
While you’re at it, think about this: Do you even know what you like doing, aside from sitting quietly at home? I like going to lectures, to movies, to museums, on hikes. I am happy to do all these things alone, but I’m also happy to do them with a hand-picked somebody else.
Try this: Identify activities you enjoy. When you find something that looks fun, buy tickets. Then look for someone you might like to invite to join you. Look in the corners of the room at other introverts; don’t get distracted by the sparkly people, the extroverts. Bite the bullet and extend an invitation. (To make this less stressful, start with people who are not potential romantic partners. That gets into a whole other sphere of anxiety.) Remember: Whether the person accepts or declines, it is always flattering to be invited, and nobody will be offended or laugh at you. If the person declines, use your introvert spidey-sense to glean whether it’s worth trying again another time. Be brave. Create a social life that fits your nature.
The payoff: With patience and persistence you will find friends who suit you while doing things you genuinely enjoy.
The problem: The world in general has you jangled.
Think about this: So much noise everywhere, so many talking heads everywhere, music blaring in every store and restaurant. Traffic moves fast, our phones are dinging at us, the news cycle is exhausting. We may not even realize how assaulted we are every day until we take a moment to step away from the racket.
The solution: For at least a few minutes every day, turn off everything. If you can, sit outside. Leave your phone inside, or at least in your pocket. Look at trees. Look at birdies. Breathe. Or take a walk or a run without earbuds. Or even just turn the car radio off on your commute and listen to nothing. Let your humming, juttering thoughts stretch out, slow down and eventually (hopefully) peter out. Find a place of quiet in your own brain.