Updated: Feb 18
I am such the introvert. I can be outgoing, talk about the weather with strangers, catch up with family or friends, but I will crash and burn after too much connection with others. My brain feels overwhelmed and disengaged and I need quiet. I’ll drive in my car without the radio on or sit and read in the silence. Anything to reconnect my brain to me and my needs. Anxiety can decrease the amount of energy we have available to connect with others as an introvert. Over the years, I’ve discovered just how important conserving energy is, how to prepare for the need and how to get rid of the guilt I have because of it.
Take the Time and the Space
Introverts can be very confusing to extroverts. There is no concept of how much energy it takes for an introvert to make a phone call unless you live with the dilemma. We take our brain functions for granted, but the act of making a phone call includes attention/concentration, problem solving, memory, processing, and a slew of other brain functions. When we add in the introvert’s need to conserve energy, it’s easy to see why making phone calls can be difficult. When we add anxiety into that phone call scenario, we’re using extra brain energy to try to guess how the conversation will begin. Then, there’s a whole pretend conversation in our head on how we will answer, how the person will respond, what we will say then…you get the point. Exhausted? Me too. Here are some tips to help you conserve your time, energy, and space you need:
Text when possible. I have friends that love text and some that don’t. Most of my friends that text are also introverts and appreciate the space and time for answering. For my friends that prefer phone calls, especially to connect and support one another, I lean into their needs, but create space for my recharging when possible. I’ll be on the phone for awhile and then will read in silence. I call people prior to getting on the road so I can sit in silence while I drive. The tricks will be different on different days, but I try to plan around my energy level.
Plan around energy-draining activities. If I am going to be at a festival where there are 10,000 people, I will not be doing anything else that evening other than vegging in front of Netflix. I love the energy from conferences, church events, community events, but it drains me. I try to look at the calendar and block out.
Explain Your Needs to Others
As introverts with anxiety, we think we KNOW what everyone else is thinking (we don’t, but that’s another topic for another blog). The danger of this is that we can also think that everyone else knows what we’re thinking and assume what we need. This is often false, and this perception leads to a lot of frustration, on everyone’s part. Explaining what you need can be difficult, especially with anxiety telling you all kinds of lies in your head about what the person will think. However, telling people your needs will grow your relationships because of your authenticity and freeing you from perceived expectations.
Tell people your “tells”. If you get quiet and begin to disappear when you’re overwhelmed, let your community know that and ask them to check in with you when this happens. But allow yourself the space to say “I’m okay. Thank you for checking on me. I expect to be back in the world in a few days”.
If you have an outgoing friend or family member, don’t expect them to understand your need to “decompress”. Explain to them this is how you get back to the world and when you might be able to connect. For example, you might say, “I would love to have dinner, but I am really emotionally exhausted from work. Can I take a raincheck and let’s do dinner in a few weeks?”. This gives cuts through any perceived expectations. Then, set a date on your calendar to follow up.
You can be an introvert and take care of your needs while being a part of your community. Planning is always the key and knowing your needs is the first step.
Mattie Cummins is a brain-loving neuro-social worker/journey coach/counselor and owner of Cerebrations LLC. She specializes in helping clients with neuro-issues and anxiety live their best life through functional coaching and brain education. By empowering you to harness the power of your brain and body connection, Mattie can help you understand what is happening in your brain, rewire your thoughts and reactions, and find your best life.