This week on aSweatLife.com, in honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10 we’re talking about mental health to raise awareness of the issues we all face and lessen the stigma of discussing mental health openly. We believe #everythingisbetterwithfriends, and we encourage you to be open to discussing mental health with yours — and if you need to talk to someone right now, you can dial 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
The first time I considered introverts and extraverts was when my little sister, a future therapist, convinced me to take a Myers-Briggs personality test so she could dissect the results. I was determined to be an ENFJ – Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging. She was an ENFJ too, as was our mother. As a teenager, these words made sense to me for the three of us, especially the “extraverted” descriptor. We were incredibly talkative and excitable, and loved finding ways to be social and meet new people.
As I progressed in my adult life and in my career, however, I became more drained from being around people instead of energized, and I started to cherish time spent alone. My mixed feelings and shift between being extraverted and its counter, introverted, make sense. The distinction isn’t black and white – we’re all on a continuum between extraversion and introversion, some of us just lean more heavily towards one or the other. As I felt the scales tip away from extraversion, I began to embrace what I needed to be successful and feel fulfilled.
While introverts are often miscategorized as being shy and quiet, they actually just draw energy from within rather than their surroundings. Introverts need to be intentional about carving out time and space to recharge through calm and introspection. Honoring my introvert needs is my truest form of self-care. Adopting these habits allows me to bring my best self to my marriage, my career, and my family and friends.
I set boundaries at home
I joke that I can tell when my husband doesn’t have many meetings at work, because he comes home and does.not.stop.talking. I love the guy and can talk to him for hours, but as a marketing gal who works with a lot of friendly people, I spend all day talking to colleagues. To recharge from the day, I need space to be quiet. I started being honest with him that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to him, I simply needed a little time to gear back up. He respects what I need to be my best self, and after a little quiet time, I’m ready for an evening with him.
I started making plans ahead of time
I love spending time with my friends, but I usually turn down spontaneous invites and don’t answer the phone when people – even people I LOVE – call me out of the blue. I learned it helped for me to plan in advance, so I could make room in my brain for what was happening that day or week that required energy. It’s like making an energy budget – I know what I have up ahead, which means I’m intentional about what I do to store up for the activity.
I embrace my time at home
I used to obsess over having something to do on weekend nights. Now, I love quiet nights, and really appreciate when they arise. Introverts love spending time with small groups, which I why I jump at opportunities for casual dinner parties and date nights. I also recognize the importance of simple nights at home alone, or with my husband, because they’re the best times for me to relax and reflect on the week. I’m not a total homebody, nor will I ever be, but I’m constantly striving for balance between socialization and solitude.
I don’t try to do everything
I live in a brilliant city with great people and things to do. And, I want to do it all! I used to pack my schedule running from this to that, but it wasn’t working for me. I was running on empty, and the best way to care for myself was to trim some activities that required me to be on. I reduced where I contribute my energy, and while it’s tough to say “no,” it allows me to cut some clutter and focus my mind where I have the most passion.
I gave myself some slack
This is a habit I’m still working on, and it’ll probably always be a journey. I still feel guilty when I let a text slide or look forward to time on my own. One of my ways for forgiving myself is being open about it. I don’t talk to my loved ones to make excuses for my inaction or lack of communication; I just want them to understand that when I disappear, it isn’t personal. I cherish and value everyone in my life, and to be the best wife, daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter and friend, I need to treat myself the way I’d want any of them to be treated – with kindness and understanding.