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What do you need when you're stressed? Solitude or the company of others?

Dealing with stress: introverts versus extroverts

Introverts and extroverts both have very different ways of dealing with stress.

Dealing with stress: introverts versus extroverts

One of my best friends is a Pisces, like me. Unsurprisingly, I recognize a lot of my own personality and characteristics in him, and vice versa. The one big difference between us is that while I am a massive introvert, he is the most extroverted person I know. This means we both have very different ways of dealing with stress.

Nuance in introverts and extroverts

Before we dive into the ways that introverts and extroverts are dealing with stress, I’d like to emphasize the fact that there is a lot of nuance between both ends of the spectrum. Some people think that all introverts are shy and don’t like socializing, while extroverts are confident and loud and constantly surround themselves with people. But there are also shy extroverts, and very social introverts. Introversion versus extroversion is more about what gives you energy and what drains you. For example, I really enjoy hanging out with my friends. But because I am an introvert, I need more alone time to process and recharge, especially after social activities. My extroverted friend is perfectly capable of being alone, but he does have a tendency to surround himself with others as much as he can, simply because it energizes him.

Same stressors, different ways of coping

Both introverts and extroverts can be affected equally by the same stressors. Stress-inducing situations like our cat getting sick, our car breaking down, or being faced with work-related problems will feel just as bad for my friend as they will feel for me. However, the best ways for us to deal with that stress are very different. Stress-relieving strategies that work amazing for me as an introvert, will probably have little to no positive effect on my extroverted friend. The best ways of dealing with stress require self-knowledge. Identifying your unique traits can help you to determine what you need to deal with the stressors that the universe will throw at you, and formulate a clear plan of action.

Dealing with stress: the best strategies for introverts

As I’ve mentioned before, introverts get their energy from their alone-time. While they can definitely enjoy themselves when they are around people, socializing will eventually drain them. You could compare it to doing a workout. No matter how much you’re enjoying it and how good you feel while you’re sweating your ass off, eventually you’re going to get tired. Dealing with stress for introverts is a matter of creating enough space in your schedule for solitude. What that alone-time looks like, is totally up to you. You may just want to lie on the sofa and watch your favourite Netflix show, cuddle with your pets, write down your thoughts, be creative with art or music or take a long mindful walk in nature. Try to be aware of yourself and how you feel afterwards. This will help to identify which ‘type’ of alone-time works best for you.

A very common problem for introverts is that they tend to feel guilty over not spending more time with the people they love. They find it difficult to say no to invitations. This often results in them burning themselves out – and needing even more time for recovery. If you know you’re an introvert, it is your responsibility to protect yourself and your energy. My advice is: explain the people closest to you how important your alone-time is for your wellbeing. It may feel scary at first, but believe me when I say that opening up will often lead others to open up to you as well – which will only strengthen your connection. When you get an invite and you’re not feeling up to it, be honest and simply tell them you need some alone-time to recharge – and make sure they don’t take the fact that you’re declining personally. Communication is very important. You can have your alone-time without burning bridges, trust me on this!

Years ago, when I still had a 9 to 5 office job, I was always exhausted. I rarely saw anyone, because I simply didn’t have the headspace to see people outside of work. Since I started freelancing and working from home, I enjoy social activities again. I already have my alone-time when I’m working, so I have more energy. Changing the way I work has actually made me a better friend. Because of the fact that I now spend enough time on my own, I am better company and more present at the times when I do hang out with people.

Another tip to ensure you have adequate alone time without turning into a hermit: call and Skype your loved ones more often. The whole process of getting ready, going out the door, travelling and visiting someone can swallow up a lot of time and energy – for introverts, even the anticipation of it all can feel overwhelming. I’ve found that it can be very beneficial to sometimes just replace those face-to-face interactions with a phone call or video call. I have weekly phone calls with a friend that lives a bit further away. I just plug in my headphones so I have my hands free while we talk, and by the time we hang up I’ve often done all my weekly household chores. At the same time, I feel happy to have talked to him, without feeling drained. Keep in mind that your loved ones just want to hear from you, and virtual contact is better than no contact at all.

Dealing with stress: the best strategies for extroverts

The process of dealing with stress for an extrovert is pretty much the opposite of an introvert’s process. Too much alone-time feels draining for them, while socializing helps them to recover. While many introverts felt conflicted because they were (secretly) thriving during the lockdowns of the pandemic, many extroverts experienced high levels of stress due to the social isolation. Which makes sense, because their strong need for physical connection could not be met.

The best way for extroverted people to destress is to surround themselves with others. But that can look very different for different extroverts, and you may need to experiment a little to see what works best for you. Maybe the best way for you to recharge is by having a friend over for a game night. Maybe it is doing voluntary work to help people in need. Maybe it is having deep, meaningful conversations with a group of your closest friends. It could also be that the best way for you to deal with stress is to go out and dance until the early hours. A social life can take on many different forms. It is up to you to figure out what settings and which people help you to relieve stress.

Final thoughts

If you don’t know where you fall on the introverted-extroverted spectrum, I encourage you to take some time to figure it out. Both come with their own challenges, but once you figure out what works best for you to deal with stress and act accordingly, you can turn your personality traits into a superpower and become the best version of yourself.

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