I live with my parents (and my younger sister) in a suburban area in Germany, and luckily enough, we are a household full of introverts! Sounds perfect, right? Must be so good when you are forced to self-quarantine with each other, you might think. And I agree with you to a certain extent!
We are like every other introvert out there. Each of us loves to spend time alone, preferably at home, while unconsciously avoiding social contact with other people. We all do have friends and things to do outside of our home like, for example, work, running errands, or going to school or university, but as the introverts that we are, we usually prefer to return home whenever we can just to be by ourselves again. So, whenever I would return home from somewhere myself, I knew everybody else would be at home, too. You can say, that I’m pretty used to having all my family around all the time – it has been like that since my early childhood and never really changed. You could think, that this must be pretty annoying sometimes, and I can assure you that when I was younger, this really annoyed me (because I was never ever the only one at home!), but as I’m growing older I really can’t be bothered by it anymore. I actually started to like the fact that I was never completely alone at home.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that we are hanging out together all the time! Oh, no! We are introverts. Sometimes I wouldn’t see them for a whole day, even though we all are living in the same house at the same time! How often and if I would see the members of my family, therefore, very much depends on everybody’s mood and if someone lacks social contact or not. Usually, we don’t mind fueling up each other’s social batteries, but we also respect when someone isn’t feeling well enough to socialize and wants to stay alone all day. It happens quite often that my sister and me won’t leave our room for hours until dinner is ready. Luckily my parents don’t mind that (anymore), which makes living together very comfortable – at least most of the time. (Until you are in a really bad mood and want scream at anyone crossing your way…)
Being an introvert who has always lived the for introverts so commonly known social-contact-avoiding lifestyle, social distancing or even self-quarantining isn’t a new concept anymore. And when we were asked by the government to avoid social contact as best as we possibly can, I kind of looked forward to it. Of course, despite knowing that this wasn’t happening just for funsies but because of a severe virus spreading around across Germany. Consequently, it was a non-funny measurement taken by the government to prevent the illness from taking over the country and destroying our whole health care system in Germany. Still, I kind of liked the idea being looked up in my home (my favorite place on earth) with no obligations and being applauded for that at the same time!
I thought that, as the introverted person that I am, this wouldn’t be a hard thing to do for me (or my whole family). We just had to reduce the already very low social interactions that we had with other people to absolutely zero and with that, we would do our part on flattening the infection curve in Germany. Amazing! I felt like a hero for a second thinking about that.
As we don’t need much social interaction anyways, I really didn’t fear having no physical contact with other people, either. Most of the time I hang around alone at home anyways, so there wasn’t much me (or my family) had to change or adjust to, to achieve having zero social interaction until it was safe to leave the house again. I even thought that this was kind of cool because everyone else was supposed to do the same thing as us, and suddenly, it was needed and heroic to stay at home. My introvert childhood dream finally came true! And in case of “I need social contact” emergencies, the whole family would be around to load up each of ours social batteries again. Sounds perfect and well planned out, right?
The down-side of self-quarantining with my introverted family
It was perfect until I realized that it would drastically affect my mental health.
What I didn’t see coming was how much being in self-quarantine would impact my and everybody’s mental health. All of a sudden, being isolated from everyone apart from my introverted family came with an enormous challenge!
I found myself stuck with people who were slowly drifting into a very negative state of mind, and I slowly began to worry about the situation and our mental well-being. It was starting to get worse with every more hour we spent in isolation while trying to process what was going on outside in the world. And we were only in the middle of the first week of self-quarantine in Germany.
All of this wasn’t easy for me to cope with. I started to have trouble sleeping and when I was finally asleep I was having nightmares after nightmares. Plus, it seemed like my batteries didn’t want to load up anymore! More than ever in my life, I felt like I needed social contact apart from my family. What a weird thing for an introvert to say!
And then, I started to think about what I could do to help my family and me to get out of this negative state of mind. So we would eventually find joy again in something we all used to love so much: staying at home and avoid social contact and do all the things we love doing like watching tv shows and play videogames! 😉
I came up with a master plan of several different things I needed to try out and adjust just to see if it would better my own mental state which was severely affected by what was going around in the world right now. My number one priority? Stop the negative flow in my brain and in the whole house. After trying out several thing, the one thing that was the most effective was the following: Turning of the news!
Nothing, not even meditation or drinking vitamin juices wanted to be as effective as turning off the news. This included not checking any news articles about the virus spread on my phone, avoiding watching tv news about it as well and stop talking about the fears that might be connected to it. Thinking about this measure, I totally understood why it helped so much! All the negativity from the news literally worked like poison for my introverted mind! The second I stopped watching the news, reading every news article about the coronavirus online, and also tried to stop talking about it as well, worked wonders!
As introverts we are already so prone to fearing all the time. Feeding those fears with negative thoughts and news is the absolute worst you can do as an introvert right now!
Suddenly I was able to focus on myself again. I was able to acknowledge my needs apart from my wish for certainty and security again, and breathing hasn’t felt so comfortable in a long time. The weight of the world appeared lifted from my shoulders, and I was able to think straight again – finally.
What I learned during just one-week of self-quarantine
If I learned one thing during this time of corona and quarantines, then that knowing all the negative things that are going on outside of the world can be very dangerous for our introverted minds. That, of course, doesn’t mean to be ignorant of what’s happening outside in the world right now. As privileged as we are, we must care about what’s going on in the world right now, but we have to take care of our mental well-being as well. After all, you can’t save the world if all you want to do is cry your eyes out! Look for the right dosage in this and make sure you have a good balance between positivity and negativity in your life, especially during these times – it is so important! Naturally, not all negative emotions are avoidable and they shouldn’t be avoidable all the time. With all positivity, there will always be negativity surrounding us as well. But we can choose for ourselves how much negativity we accept to let into our lives. Too much negativity can cause fear, which often leads to severe anxiety or even panic attacks. Choose the dosage wisely!
Here are some of my life-saving quick-tips for when experiencing extreme fear in self-isolation caused by the news or any other source of information:
Don’t avoid the feeling of fear. When it’s there, it wants to be experienced. Trying to keep yourself busy when you feel the sensation of fear coming up in your body, will work for a couple of minutes or even an hour, but not forever. The fear you were trying to avoid will hit you like an avalanche the moment you’re not busy anymore. So be aware of that and try not to avoid it. As stupid as it sounds: you need to take some deep breaths and sit with it. Give it the attention that it needs for a moment to be able to consciously let it go again. Treat your fear like it’s an anxious little kid. After all, the fear you are experiencing in that moment is the younger version of yourself calling for security and a helping hand.
Talk or write about your fears. This is a perfect practice to learn how to let go of your negative feelings. I experience it to be very relieving for my heart and soul when I journal or talk about my negative emotions and fears with someone I trust. Often times, I choose writing (aka journaling) about my feelings over talking about them – this totally depends on the topic, and if I feel comfortable talking about them with someone. An excellent way to write about them is through easily answerable questions. You can use search engines to look for writing prompts or come up with your own for a more personal touch.
Here are some of my journal writing prompts for letting go the feeling of fear:
- “What makes you feel nervous/anxious/uncomfortable right now?”
- “Write down two things that are currently causing anxiety for you.”
- “Which positive sides can you see of what you’re currently experiencing?”
You can get really creative with those writing prompts and adjust them to your current situation! But if you prefer to just write your heart out and don’t feel the need for using writing prompts, you can do that as well. In journaling, there is no write or wrong or specific way to do it. Do what feels write and it will be helping nonetheless.
Take care & stay healthy during these challenging times!
If you don’t know yet how to properly take care of your introverted soul during self-isolation, I can recommend to check out my previous blog article: https://thegermanintrovert.com/2020/03/20/how-to-take-care-of-yourself-during-quarantine/