Ask the Therapist: Lonely Introvert

Dear Sara,

I’m a proud introvert but this pandemic is really wearing me out. I feel lonely and want to see my friends again, but I know it’s unsafe. What should I do?

Lonely Introvert

 

Dear Lonely Introvert,

This has been an unbelievably stressful and tough year. I’m glad you’re keeping yourself and the people you care about safe. That means a lot, even though it might not feel like it. Still, your feelings of loneliness are understandable and valid. Interacting with people changed drastically over the course of a year and sometimes video calls or texts just aren’t fulfilling.

Here are some tips that might help you feel more connected:

  • Make plans for the future. This can be as detailed as you’d like. Some examples I’ve heard are traveling to different countries or a specific destination, going back to college, volunteering, and having tabletop game nights. This gives you something to work toward once the pandemic is done.
  • If you want to, share these plans with your friends. This can help with further planning, taking your mind off stressful things, and considering new ideas if wanted. It also gives you something to talk about with your friends so that you can feel more connected.
  • Attend online support groups if you have the energy to do so. You don’t have to share anything if you choose not to, but it can be helpful to see other people who also feel the struggle and to simply hear other people’s voices. You are not alone.
  • If you miss physical touch, give yourself some time during the day to stim. This can be anything that makes the most sense for you. Some examples I’ve heard are skin brushing (lightly touching your skin with your fingers or a brush); weighted blankets; or feeling the softness of a Squishmallow (or any other stuffed animal or pillow).
  • Zoom burnout is definitely a thing, but the virtual world is one of the best ways to connect right now. Sometimes it can help just seeing another person and sharing that space. Schedule some Zoom or Google hangouts with your friends. It could be be engaging in an interest together, playing a game, or just chatting.
  • Any regular, safe contact with friends is good. If this is hard to remember, you can schedule a specific time during the week to contact friends. This can be a hangout or something more specific (e.g., playing a video game online at the same time). You can also ask others to check in on you regularly (e.g., daily or weekly). It is OK to forget or just not want to talk with anyone. These difficult times drain a lot of energy. You are not a bad person for forgetting. You are not a bad person for wanting time to yourself.
  • If you decide to see other people in person, please follow the CDC recommendations. These include wearing masks, staying six feet apart, and washing your hands. I would recommend meeting up outside and having a time limit; I’ve heard a lot of people are excited to go for walks again, potentially with a friend. Being careful to follow guidelines can help keep you and your friends safe.

All My Best,

Sara

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