Annie Dries, PsyD, LP
How to Achieve Social Distancing Without Becoming Socially Isolated - A Guide For Extroverts
Right now, there are likely many introverts doing a quiet dance of joy in their heads because they have been told to limit contact with others. Extroverts, on the other hand, may be panicking.
It is true that, for the time being, life has changed for us all. We still have a big choice to make; how will we handle this?
We have ultimate control over our own actions and over our perspective on this situation. How will we spend this time? What will we do to keep ourselves mentally healthy?
Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, I recommend that you create a daily schedule for yourself. Don't allow yourself to sleep in so late that it makes you feel guilty. Keep up with exercise. This may mean going for walks, jogs or a bike ride or finding a new workout online that you can do from home or pulling out an old exercise DVD. A little self-disclosure...I might still have some Billy Blanks VHS tapes here. Try to still eat a balanced diet. Make a list of projects you can work on during this time and check them off as you go to help you feel like you have accomplished something. You can take some time to keep a record or journal of your days as the documentation of this strange time in our lives may be pretty cool to look back on after it has ended.
The above recommendations will be helpful for everyone but extroverts may still be left feeling flat. The reality is that we get something from the interactions we have with others. They energize us and reinforce us. Let's first take a look at what interactions we are reduced to. Social media, phone calls, texts, email, FaceTime/video conferencing and face to face contact with our household family members or roommates, remain intact.
From the above list, evaluate what things help you to feel connected and happy and what things may be better for you to avoid (I'm hoping that you aren't listing your family or roommates here because you are pretty much stuck with them for the indefinite future). Maybe social media generally makes you feel good and connected but there are a couple of groups or pages you know you should probably avoid. Maybe you have a family member who makes you feel anxious when they call because they spout conspiracy theories or have a very fatalistic view on the current situation. These would be calls to avoid taking or to have a time limit and some guiding conversation points to change the subject when needed. Do you have a group of friends you normally go out to dinner with? Maybe you can all video chat at your regular day and time to keep yourself feeling connected. Maybe now is the time to start a book club and host it online so that you have something to discuss other than current events. Maybe this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of life slowing down a bit. We all have friends we have lost touch with due to our hectic lives. You can pick a friend or two each day who you haven't caught up with in a while and arrange a time to call to help you feel less isolated.
The bottom line for everyone is that social distancing is a must but that doesn't mean that we have to stop being socially connected. Now is the time to evaluate what makes you feel happy and connected and to seek this out by phone, text, email or video conferencing. If we choose to see this time as an opportunity rather than a sentence in solitary confinement, we will be so much healthier and happier. Get creative and feel free to leave comments below.