Unless you’ve managed to finagle an effortless and free takeout and Amazon Prime delivery service to your personal hidey-hole (and if you have, do tell!), even the most innie of us introverts has to venture out into the extrovert world and get some serious business done from time to time. We have to work, shop, drive, and socialize.
Navigating the perils of the extrovert world can be exhausting and alienating for introverts. However, there are ways that you can actually lean into the positive aspects of your introversion to make life easier, smoother, and indeed even more fun! Here are six life hacks you can use to your advantage, my fellow introvert friend.
As introverts, we are energized by downtime. Too much time spent extroverting and we begin to feel frazzled and worn down. To put it kindly, we become less than our charming, articulate selves. When energy supplies get critically low, we may become grouchy, anxious, and even have trouble formulating a complete sentence. We need to recognize this about ourselves and learn how to budget our energy in a way that actually works…not how we wish it was…not how society tells us we should be. This does not mean to become stingy with our time and energy and shut out all but the essentials; it means to admit what we CAN and CAN’T do if we are to keep ourselves healthy and sane.
Super introverted people will, of course, require more downtime than those closer to the midpoint on the introversion-extroversion spectrum. They key is to find your sweet spot and be true to your own needs. For example, say you are a mid-level introvert like myself; clearly introverted but not extreme. If I have a busy workweek, I will plan maybe one significant social event on the weekend. I know that doing more than that will drain my energy budget too far into the red and I will start the next week already exhausted and trying to play catch up.
Another strategy is to plan introvert breaks throughout your workday. If you have 30 or 60 minutes for lunch, take a break out in nature solo or maybe just sit and chill in a quiet, dark room! If you only have 10 or 15 minutes, bust out those headphones, and make it clear you are not to be disturbed. Introvert breaks throughout the workday will help refill your energy levels bit by bit so you can make it through the day hopefully without going home completely exhausted.
Many of us introverts have been blessed with a strong and true inner compass. Some may call it a sixth sense, intuition, or maybe just an inner voice. This inner sense of deep knowing will speak to us most clearly when we slow down and listen in. It comes from our deep self-knowledge and understanding of other people and situations we have garnered through our inward orientation plus plenty of time spent in a natural state of introspection. If you find yourself facing a big life decision like whether or not to end a relationship, or even something very small like which route to take to work, listen in to that inner voice, and it will very rarely lead you astray if you are honest with yourself about what it’s saying. I bet a lot of you know exactly what I’m talking about!
Your intuition might not take the form of a voice per se; it might manifest as a feeling of something being right or wrong deep down in your gut or maybe your heart center. I have an introvert friend who tells me she knows when she is not being true to her inner compass when she feels her throat ache slightly and have the sensation of closing up. That is her body’s way of telling her she is off her center.
According to introvert expert Susan Cain, we introverts can get a lot of passionate, free-flowing work done in life by utilizing the free-trait theory of personality. The free-trait theory states that an introvert can harness the positive aspects of extroversion when working on an important personal project or something the introvert is passionate about and skilled at. These positive traits include openness, positivity, charisma, enthusiasm, and even loquaciousness. This is important for introverts to know and practice. If you engage in an activity and find yourself impassioned, feeling the “flow”, and able to communicate those good feelings with others or at least in front of others, that is excellent information for you on the path you should be following in life in terms of vocation, careers, and even just hobbies.
So observe yourself and listen to that inner voice when you find yourself in the flow, when things naturally become filled with ease, and any anxiety fades away into nonexistence. Find ways to tap into that same vein of ease in yourself by finding more time to engage in those things, even if they seem odd to others.
Not everything can be lovely, happy flow-state stuff. Sometimes we need to go for a run when we don’t feel like it, get the giant pile of laundry done, restock the fridge by making a dreaded big grocery shopping trip, or finish that looming term paper….those kinds of tasks that we like to procrastinate on in every way possible. Luckily, we introverts are so creative that we can outsmart even our toughest procrastination tendencies by gamifying tasks of daily life.
Gamification is the process of applying principles of game design to everyday tasks to make them more fun. This can be very complex or it can be very simple. One simple strategy is to set a timer and challenge yourself to finish an unpleasant task within a specific time frame. Give yourself 10 minutes less than you really need to increase the challenge! Alternatively, you can do gamify tasks with music. Say you need to clean the bathroom but are feeling tired and overwhelmed. Put on a favorite playlist and give yourself three full songs to do as much as possible. After the three songs are over, you are allowed to quit, but oftentimes you will be enjoying yourself enough to push through to the end of the task. You can also create a mini-rewards system with yourself where you earn points for doing something you have been avoiding, and when you have won enough points, you get the reward, such as a new video game you have been wanting, an hour of uninterrupted reading time, a foo-foo coffee drink…you get the idea.
For more creative and fun gamification ideas, check out the following articles:
Sadly, when introverts are stressed by demands of daily life, our exercise plan is often the first thing to fall by the wayside. We may claim that we don’t have enough time or energy for exercising. This is problematic because the less we exercise, the funkier we will feel. Moderate exercise is the key to unlocking inner energy stores and beating day-to-day lethargy. If you suffer from depression or anxiety (which can make even simple tasks of living feel insurmountable), regular exercise is even more essential; clinical studies have shown that adhering to an exercise plan can be just as effective as treating depression and anxiety as taking psychiatric medication. And using exercise as an energy and mood booster has zero side effects, except maybe getting you a sexy body!
So if you are feeling to drained and overextended to get your exercise….do it anyway! You will feel better afterward. Exercising is also like any habit; it may take a while to feel normal, but once the habit is established, it will feel totally normal and become hard to break rather than hard to initiate. Choose an exercise modality that works for you. Not everyone needs to be a runner or to move around massive barbells! Though some introverts like these things, other introverts like yoga, walking, dance, Zumba, cycling, rock climbing, racquetball, etc. If you are feeling stuck, try something as simple as a home workout DVD that you can do in total privacy and see where it takes you.
Although some introverts are natural charmers, many of us struggle to feel comfortable in social situations, especially around new people. However, let’s also recognize that most introverts have the temperament and skills that allow us to be great listeners. People with great listening skills make excellent friends, work colleagues, romantic partners, and are generally just pleasant people to be around. We can be highly emphatic for others as well as analytical and curious about what makes things tick. You can leverage these introvert advantages to become more comfortable in social settings.
If you are feeling anxious or frozen up in a social setting, try the simple act of asking an open-ended question of another person. Don’t ask them something to which they can respond with a simple “yes” or “no”. If you are at a lecture event, ask the person sitting next to you which speaker they are most interested in hearing. If you are at a long and boring class at school, ask a classmate what they plan to write their final paper about. If you are on a first date, ask your date what brought them to city you’re both now inhabiting, their favorite animal and why, anything! Be creative, and think ahead about questions that interest you that you can have down-pat in your mind as failsafes if you get anxious when the it’s go time.
In this article, we have really just skimmed the surface of the many ways we introverts can use our positive characteristics to our advantage in day to day life in the extrovert-dominated world. Overall, remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong or less-than about being an introvert; indeed, we have a lot of unique positive attributes to offer that can benefit not only ourselves, but our friendships, families, and society and culture as a whole. We just need to learn how to tap into them!
Craig is the founder of LifeGuider, he is dedicated to improving not only himself but also others in being more physically fit and mentally capable of handling life’s challenges. He is not your regular life coach, no fancy clothes or fast cars, just a regular “Ole Joe” who has experienced the ups and downs of life like everyone else.
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