How to Love Social Distancing: Expert Tips from Expert Introverts

    I recently saw an article instructing introverts on how to happily social distance. You read that right: some poor, confused soul thought we might need help figuring out how to spend time alone, enjoy our own company, and stay contented without going out to socialize and be around other people.

    Meanwhile, the host of introverts are laughing together - separately, in our own homes - and celebrating our favorite way of being. Social distancing and stay-at-home, to me, feel equal parts scary because of the reason, and what-a-blessed-relief-not-to-have-to-leave-the-house. It's like the meme says: 

    We've been training for this our entire lives.

    Which got me thinking: Maybe our extravert loved ones - and we do really love you, especially when you respect our space and quiet - would find our, ah, expertise useful right about now?

    My hubby is working from home...he loves being around people so he is about losing his mind. He comes upstairs from his office and his eyes are all bugging out...I'm drinking coffee, doing homeschool, and trying to work on the laptop and sort of chuckle because I could literally be stranded in a cabin in the woods and be fine. - Teri L.

    1. Go offline

    I know, it's where all the action is. Actors and musicians and entertainers have cobbled together hours of amusement. Your friends are posting hilarious memes. The news cycle is 24/7. You might miss something!

    It really helps to like yourself; it makes spending time by yourself enjoyable. So...start liking the way you think and the way you look and be true to yourself. Enjoy indulging in your likes and hating your hates, all while not having to try to explain yourself to others. Just be. - Donna L.

    You won't miss anything by going offline. It'll all be there when you log back on before bed. In the meantime, you'll have more energy and time to engage fully in your day. You won't get caught up in the echo chamber or the general anxiety. You'll feel healthier, more centered, and a whole lot less anxious if you don't get sucked into the online life.

    I'm reading less news which helps my sanity, also hanging less in fb groups full of panicky business people. - Maja Z.

    2. Gift yourself a beautiful space

    Whether it's a room, a corner, a chair, or just a windowsill, claim some space as your very own. Add flowers or a pinecone from the yard. Put your favorite photos or keepsakes there. Some people make personal altars. Others just organize a pantry shelf with their favorite foods.

    Figure out what *your* essential supplies are... my stocked and organized tea station makes me happy. - Anna U. 

    Whatever you choose, visit your space every day and make it your place to breathe, relax, center, and remind you of the things that matter most to you.

    Use the time you used to spend commuting to do yoga / write a novel / walk your dog more! - Jane P.

    3. Ommmindfulness

    Okay, now that we've got the internet out of the way, what do you do with your time? Even if you're swamped with work and running a household of people, you're going to have blocks of time. If you're an advanced mindfulness person, you'll even make time.

    I still get up at around 5:30 to exercise & meditate to get some time for myself before my kids wake up and craziness starts! I also started doing quiet time for them ( I send them to their rooms to play quietly for an hour so I can enjoy a much needed quiet/alone time). - Teri L.

    Consider these blocks of time your opportunities for self-care in whatever way seems best to you. If you're not sure what's best, try one new thing every week and see how you like it. Some ideas to get started:

    • Meditation or centering prayer
    • Breathing exercises
    • Quiet stretching (or yoga, of course)
    • A long bath
    • Pampering with a manicure, pedicure, or facial
    • Learn to give yourself a foot or hand massage

    What all these ideas have in common is inviting you to be quiet and present in the moment. Be inside your head for a while, and see what happens.

    4. Get moving (there's an app for that)

    Oh, yes, the temptation to sit on the couch and eat all. day. long. So inviting. Resist! There be dragons!

    Dance...and pretend everyone is watching. Or challenge yourself to 60 minutes of any kind of exercise (combo of cardio, yoga, Pilates, etc.). - Brandy S.

    Get some energy out by moving, anyhow you like. Now's a fabulous time to try new workouts that don't require a gym membership. Think Pilates, HiiT, ballet barre, yoga, 7-minute workouts, and body weight boot camp. I love the Down Dog apps for yoga and HiiT, personally, and Runkeeper has fabulous challenges for walking and running (and you get some virtual socializing, too). There are dozens more in the app stores, so you could try something different every week and still have some left over.

     5. Love some greenery

    Plants, beautiful plants. Green is good for us, and nurturing them offers great stress relief. You don't have to go to a park or even walk around your backyard, either. Start some seeds indoors, grow herbs on the windowsill, or order up a bonsai to learn a new skill. 

    I've been known to walk around my backyard and pluck weeds seedlings and put them in a pot, just to see if I can make them grow. Most of them don't make it, but sometimes they surprise me. My favorite quasi-bonsai is actually a nandina seedling I plopped in a pot more than a year ago as I learn more about the art of bonsai (with almost zero investment).

    Plant a garden, grow some food. Not only does it give you a sense of pride, it is nice spending time outside, watering your plants and listening to the sounds of nature. Plus, the sun is great for your vitamin D levels. - Theresa R.

    6. Be a cat

    Okay, work with me here. You know how good sunlight is for your mood and energy. But if you're cooped up indoors, it's easy to start feeling depressed or lackluster. Maybe you don't have a park nearby, or you live in an apartment with no balcony, or your city's stay-at-home rules really don't let you leave the house.

    What tip would I give extraverts? Cat(s). - Kate W.

    That's where the cat thing comes in. Cats loll about in sunlight wherever they find it, whether on the roof, or in the grass, or in that strip of sun from the dining room window. They'll take what's on offer and suck every bit of joy they can from it.

    So if you can't get outside, sit by the window. Turn your face to sun and close your eyes. Think about the warmth and light, and just soak it in. If you have space and the time, this is a fine opportunity to take a nap, I have to say.

    7. Challenge yourself

    So many challenges, so little time! So far during this crisis, I've seen online lessons offered for sewing, knitting, crocheting, whittling, baking, watercolor, and coloring - and that's without actively searching for lessons. Universities are opening some of their online coursework, and apps are offering extended free trials. You could learn a language, study history, get some business lessons, or a bazillion other things.

    Keeping your mind challenged means less anxiety and more satisfaction. It doesn't just pass the time, it makes the time work for you.

    Get lost in a juicy book! Time flies when you’re flipping through a page-turner. Make that dish; bake that cake! Might as well eat good since you’re locked in. - Kathy F.

    Or challenge yourself to organize your pantry, clean out your closet, polish your shoes, empty out the junk drawer, or whatever space-enriching pastime leaves you feeling relaxed and accomplished. 

    I have cleaned, organized, and inventoried my entire studio and will start on the shop later this week. I started cleaning lavender and still have about four more days to go. When I finish I will start working on a huge backlog of paperwork and might even tackle the website which desperately needs attention. - Debrena G.

    Or give yourself a reading challenge! Finally tackle that reading list, or invent a reading list. You could revisit all the books you had to read in high school, or read books published the year you were born, or read everything you can find about a single topic.

    8. Keep the peace (and peace of mind)

    If you're social distancing with other people in a confined space, tempers could flare. That's where pretending to be an introvert can save your sanity. Think of quiet (ahem, silence) as a beautiful cocoon you wrap around yourself and share with the people around you.

    Stagger your busy times if possible... 4 people having a deadline or conference calls at the same time = stabbiness. - Anna U.

    What might that look like? Think noise-cancelling headphones so you can listen to your podcasts, music, audio books, and other comforting noise without driving everyone around you crazy. Or use those headphones while watching TV or playing video games. Don't hum to yourself or whistle, for the love of peace. Maybe sing more quietly in the shower.

    But you've got to make noise, right? Not only for necessity, but just because you have to get it out sometimes. What if you designate an hour or two for a family dance party, with everyone taking turns to choose the music Let it be as loud as your neighbors can stand. Then turn it off and go back to blessed quiet. You'll get on each other's nerves far less.

    And it helps to have a backup plan. If the Internet goes down in your house, or your usual foods aren't available, or the disruption has you going bonkers... Keep your focus on the things you can control to keep your peace of mind.

    When plan A starts to go down the tubes we already have several other plans of action in mind. There is always more than one way to make lemonade and sometimes the ones you normally wouldn't even think of trying turn out to be the best. Life is too short to sit around and stress over things you can't change, concentrate on the things you can. - Debrena G.

    9. Fake it

    When you've done All The Things, there's still the online world. Use the time in ways that nurture and sustain you, instead of enervating and draining you. Reach out to friends and family. Email a long-lost college roommate. (Or write an honest-to-goodness letter.)

    Being at home doesn't mean being isolated. It can just mean finding new ways to connect.

    Last weekend my husband got to chat for hours with his parents and three brothers and nieces and nephews in two countries and three states and four time zones, all at the same time, thanks to technology. We chatted for hours with our daughter, who is living in tomorrow on the other side of the globe. Nothing has made me feel more grounded, more reassured, than all of their voices, their joking, their shouting over each other as if we were all in one room instead of everywhere.

    Keep reaching out, keep talking and Skype-ing and calling. Check in with each other about nothing in particular and nothing special. The checking in is what's special. Your voice is what's special. - Emily C.

    And I'd be unlike myself not to point out one more possibility that I can really get behind:

    Three words: virtual happy hour. - Tim C.