Introverts can find it hard to carve out the time and space we need to be able to thrive in an extroverted world. Here’s four things I started doing in 2018 to honour my introverted nature.

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1. Exercising

I started exercising this year, much to my surprise. I hated sports at school, and have never thought of myself as the ‘active type’.

But when I got home from work one day a few months back, I just got this urge to MOVE, and stretch out a bit. I felt so sluggish. So, I looked up ‘beginner workouts’ on YouTube. That first workout gave me such an adrenaline buzz (not to mention very sore legs!), that I couldn’t wait the next day to get home and do it again. I was hooked. I’ve been working out five to six times a week ever since.

Whilst I’ve definitely reaped some of the physical benefits that come from exercising regularly, what’s made me stick at it is the impact it’s had on my mental wellbeing. As an introvert, I have a tendency to overthink. Exercising clears my head and forces me back into my body. You can’t ruminate when you’re fighting for breath and your legs are burning up.

I also enjoy a good stretching routine after my workouts. This allows me to unwind and re-connect, physically and mentally.

I highly recommend exercise as a way for introverts to de-clutter their brains and re-centre themselves. You don’t even have to leave the house. No need to join an exercise class or take out a gym membership, with all the self-consciousness and general social awkwardness (not to mention expense) that can entail. Just load up YouTube in your living room and away you go.

I had to remind myself that I am allowed to put me first. This doesn’t always come naturally to us introverts!

2. Working from home

Working 9–5 in an open-plan office, with a long commute, really zaps my energy. By the end of the week, I’ll have fallen into one of my ‘Friday funks’: I become irritable, moody and even quieter than usual.

A couple of months ago, following a meeting with my manager about my working pattern, I was offered the chance to work from home one day a week. At first, I hesitated. Some of my colleagues work from home, but only occasionally. I was worried what they might think about me being given this ‘privilege’. Until I reminded myself that I am allowed to put me first. This doesn’t always come naturally to us introverts!

So, I accepted my manager’s offer, and I’m glad I did. Just that one day at home each week is enough to refresh and re-energise me. It gives me the break I need from my colleagues’ chit-chat and having to answer the phone. I also benefit from being able to work in a more comfortable environment. There’s no natural light in the office, and it can often get too warm. If you’re a highly sensitive introvert like me, your surroundings can really affect your concentration and productivity levels. At home, I can focus so much better.

I appreciate that not everyone is able to work from home, but introverts, if your employer does allow it, don’t be shy about claiming it for your own (introverted) good.

3. Staying in hotels instead of with family

I made two overnight trips to London this year, and even though I could have stayed with my sister at her place, I chose to stay in hotels instead.

I felt weird about this at first. Partly, because I didn’t want my sister to think I was being rude or rejecting her. Also, because I wondered whether it did indeed make me weird. Who forks out for a hotel when they can stay with family for free? Am I really that anti-social?

But introverts need their restorative niches, and that often means being alone. After a day full of activity, I knew I would need my own space to retreat to, so I would be able to de-compress and recover from all the stimulation.

Fortunately, my sister understood. It can be hard to insist on the space that we introverts need, particularly if there’s a chance we could hurt someone’s feelings by doing so. That’s the last thing a lot of introverts would want. But equally, we shouldn’t have to compromise our needs just to make others happy. Sure, we may have to sometimes. But not every time.

Introverts shouldn’t have to compromise their needs just to make others happy. Sure, we may have to sometimes. But not every time.

4. Deep breathing

One of the best books I read this year was Sarah Wilson’s First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety. It introduced me to ‘deep belly breathing’ as a way to slow down and steady myself whenever I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

Sometimes I might practice it in the form of a meditation. Or I might just take a few deep, mindful breaths when getting onto a busy train or when sat at my desk at work.

Try this (from Sarah’s blog):

Breath in (no need to count in, just take a normal breath). Now breath out to a count of five. Hold for five. Release. Nothing more.

Did you get that nice deep belly breath on the next inhale? Relaxing, right?

It has been quietly empowering to discover that I can call on the breath, anytime, anywhere, as a way to calm down and re-connect with my true, inner self.

What have you done this year, or plan on doing in 2019, to honour your introverted self?

Writing about introvert life & aro/ace pride.

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