Don’t Talk To Me! (The Introvert’s Guide to Stress Relief)

Last week, we talked about stress relief for depression and anxiety sufferers. This week, I’d like to talk about another special case: The Introvert. <Insert very soft, unobtrusive musical intro here>

What’s an Introvert?

There’s often a bit of confusion about what an introvert actually is.

An introvert is not necessarily shy, although shy people are often introverted.

Forcing conversation with an introvert will only cause her distress. Be kind and respect her space.

Forcing conversation with an introvert will only cause her distress. Be kind and respect her space.

An introvert is not necessarily awkward, but many awkward people are introverts — and being an introvert around a large group of extroverts can make you feel awkward.

Here, then, is my quasi-scientific description of an introvert. We:

  • Prefer our own inner world of thoughts and reflection over the (in our opinion) too-noisy external world of over-socialization.
  • We are like batteries: We give our energy to others when we socialize, and have to take time alone to recharge.
  • We thrive on quiet, on peace, and on solitude.
  • We don’t hate people, and we aren’t totally averse to social interaction. We just get overwhelmed by too much socialization, especially if there’s no quiet place for us to retreat and rebuild our energy.

Common Introvert Stressors

Looking at that list, it’s easy to deduce a lot of the things that really stress out an introvert. If we’re prevented from taking time alone, or if we have our privacy disrupted, we become stressed and upset. We introverts aren’t big on small talk (see what I did there? Yeah, it wasn’t that funny. Sorry), and we become exhausted by long conversations that don’t go anywhere.

We are introspective and like to take our time to formulate opinions or responses. If we feel rushed to reply to a statement or give an opinion on a topic, we quickly see our stress meters crank up.

Introverts tend to fear public failure. If we slip up, whether it’s a verbal stumble or a mistake that everyone sees, we feel deep humiliation, and take time to get over it.

We are the classic illustration of the old “Damn! Why didn’t I think of that comeback during the argument” problem. We often don’t like verbal arguments for this reason — we don’t get enough time to build thoughtful replies, and may feel outmanned.

Embracing Introvert-Friendly Stress Relief

Sometimes an introvert just needs to let the fingers do the talking.

Sometimes an introvert just needs to let the fingers do the talking.

Last week, when I was talking about ways for depression sufferers to relieve stress, I mentioned that getting out of the house was far healthier than holing up inside. And that’s true for many people — but not necessarily for an introvert.

I’m not saying you should hide away and refuse to see anyone, but for an introvert, sometimes the best stress relief is just some alone time. In fact, some experts say that an introvert is at optimal mental health when he or she spends at least half of his or her time alone.

In practice, this may mean taking a long road trip or a long walk in nature to get away with your own thoughts. And if you live with others — particularly if you live with one or more extroverts — a room of your own, with a door that closes, is essential.

You can also take a break from verbal communication for a day or two. Ignore the phone; let voicemail pick it up and return only important calls. Communicate via email, text, or written notes during that time.

Listening to music — or, if that’s too much stimulation, just putting on a set of noise-cancelling headphones with no sound — can also help drown out the outside world and give you time to relax and boost your energy.

It’s important for both an introvert and the people in his or her life to understand an introvert’s natural reaction to stress. Remember: For an introvert, retreating into him- or herself is not unhealthy, and not a sign of neurosis. It’s a perfectly normal way of coping with stress.


 

Are you an introvert? What are your favorite methods of stress relief? Share them with us in the comments! And don’t forget to sign up for new posts — the form’s in the sidebar.


Comments

Don’t Talk To Me! (The Introvert’s Guide to Stress Relief) — 24 Comments

  1. This is a great post, Angie. I don’t know whether I’m truly an introvert or I get overstimulated by too much stuff (maybe those are parts of the same thing?), but I can’t function if I don’t have time completely alone. I love being outside, though. My alone time often involves digging in the dirt, working in my garden, building something outside, even hanging clothes on the line. Stuff like that. And today is one of those days where the phone ringing might just make me snap.
    Carole recently posted…How to Be a Real Writer -or- Where’s My Membership Card?My Profile

    • Repeat after me: I do NOT have to answer the phone every time it rings. I do NOT have to answer the phone EVERY time it rings. I DO NOT HAVE TO ANSWER THE PHONE EVERY TIME IT RINGS. πŸ˜‰

      Seriously, sometimes you need to let voicemail grab the phone for awhile, and return calls tomorrow, when you’re better able to cope.

      And my big outdoor thing is fishing. I love fishing, and I can usually find a spot where no one else is around to bother me. I leave my cell phone in the car, too.

  2. This hits the nail on the head for me. I often feel as though I must justify the need for space to my extroverted friends. I read something years ago that talked about introverts needing more down time to process things, and that’s helped me a lot to see that.

    Thanks for sharing this! )
    Karen Lange recently posted…The Bucket ListMy Profile

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Karen! πŸ™‚

      Yeah, I struggled with this for a long time, too. It’s always been worst when I’ve been out with extroverted friends, who can’t understand that, yes, I can sit in a quiet corner just observing the proceedings and still be having fun. πŸ˜‰

  3. To add to one of your opening paragraphs, I’d wager to say introverts are prone to FEELING awkward, even if they don’t come off that way to others.

    It’s soothing to get an explanation of yourself put together so well by someone who truly understands introversion. Thank you, Angie!

    • Agreed, Janna. There are also introverts who feel fine in social situations; they just get fatigued by them. As with anything else, introverts don’t fit one standard definition — there’s a spectrum. πŸ˜‰

      Thank YOU for reading/commenting!

  4. for me, the smaller group of people I talk to in social gatherings, the better….I feel overwhelmed in reunions; family or work ones. I start thinking what can I talk or say to this person… sometimes nothing comes up!! it stressed me out I cannot start a conversation or when people ask me things I don’t feel comfortable talking about!! lol…

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Mariana!

      You’re definitely not alone. I’m okay at family reunions, as long as I stick to talking to one or two people at a time. Fairly easy in my family, since we tend to spread out at reunions so we’re not a tight cluster. πŸ˜‰

      And I’ve found that the harder I try to come up with a conversation topic, the more blank my mind gets. That’s why introverts are so bad at small talk, I think: we overthink it until the awkward silences drown out any conversation!

  5. Great post. I was introverted as a child, but kind of grew out of it as I got older. However, I find that now (the older I get) I’m reverting back to being more introverted. I also suffer from an anxiety/panic disorder and that has made me more introverted. I love your site!

    • Yeah, anxiety/panic disorder changes the whole game. It can turn what was just an exhausting exercise (having to socialize with groups of people) into a traumatic one. From someone who occasionally has all-out meltdowns in the middle of Walmart (I’ve had to leave the store and sit in my car to get my breathing back under control one or two times), I feel your pain.

      And thank you! Glad you enjoy the site!

  6. This things really hit a lot of points that I agree with. Also to add I think many introverts have a moment where if they are under REAL STRESS or something catastrophic happens like a fire they might just freeze up for a second, which probably goes back to us needing to gather our thoughts. But good write up and this was definitely a good read.

  7. I agree with a lot that was said but I would like to know about introverts and relationships.Introverts and Bipolar Disirder

    • I’d be happy to cover those topics in a future post, Lillian – Can you clarify what it is you’d like to know about them? Want to make sure I answer any questions you may have. πŸ™‚

  8. Glad I stumbled on this at work. Most people do not understand why I enjoy being alone and especially during big gatherings. I get drained and stressed out, even from excessive chattering. Thanks a bunch for writing this! I see I am not alone!

    • Thanks for visiting, Amelie! You’re definitely not alone — either in being an introvert, or in being misunderstood because of it. πŸ™‚

  9. This is completely true! I’m an introvert starting at college, I was placed with three VERY extroverted people that I’d never met before and I’ve noticed, remarkably, the difference its made. I am waaaaayyyy more stressed out at home because I can’t get alone time at home-despite my closing door, I can still hear their constant group of friends through the wall and therefore cannot get any alone time. (yes I’ve tried the earplug/headphone combo)
    Does anyone have any recommendations on how to handle this situation?(keep in mind that I’ve already attempted trying to get a transfer/ change of apartment) My major problem is that on the weekend the library (the ultimate sanctum of quiet, alone time) is closed very early and thats when these loud parties happen. Being a freshman, I don’t have any close friends to turn to.

  10. thats a good one, not answer the phone, i do it already sometimes, i just need that people leave me alone , the more they try to contact me , the more i’m stressed out , stop taking over my life please!

  11. This is just the validation I was looking for today! I was searching online to understand why I feel so upset when I can overhear co-worker’s chitter chatter disrupting my own thoughts, making me feel overwhelmed. I am a graphic designer by day and writer by night, and admittedly an introvert, so this post was right on target. Sometimes I just want to be left alone with my own thoughts without outside “static”. Thanks.

    • Hi, H.D. – Thanks for your comment! I’m so glad the post was helpful for you – and I know what you mean. I can’t focus at all if someone’s talking near me. I can’t even listen to the radio while I’m working! πŸ˜‰

  12. I have real issues with social events. I just got back from a big group camp that for me was 7 days of pure stress and lots of people I know in a cramped space or just lots and lots of strangers. I tend to have a massive overload in these situations (every heard of sensory overload? yeah it feels kind of like that only so much worse) usually it is all I can do to stop myself from screaming or crying from the mental stress and pain. On the previously mentioned trip, I was accused of being anti-social for wanting to eat outside during dinner times and rude for needing to listen to music in order to keep my sanity while we were on the bus or walking around as a group etc. any advice for a solution to my mental breakdowns is welcome and invited (yes I have tried meditation and that works until I have to stop doing it in which case I end up back at square one) πŸ˜€

    • Thanks for commenting, Mirror – and sorry to hear about your social anxiety! I cringe even thinking about your camp experience. πŸ™

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