You don’t need to feel bad for having boundaries.
It’s become more well-known that introverts need time alone to recharge. When you’re an introvert living with people in a shared space, that can be tricky.
During lockdown and quarantine, it’s another level.
More people are having to stay home at times they’d usually be working or socializing. This can be incredibly challenging for introverts, who rely on regular breaks from people at some points during the day.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t like people or that you don’t like to talk, it just means that doing it de-energizes you.
For some introverts, it means you might get irritable or moody when you can’t get enough alone time to wind down. At times, you may come across as hostile or rude to the people you’re living with.
This can be an added pressure because you feel the need to act friendly at times when you don’t have the capacity to.
Whether you’re living with family, friends, or people you’re not very familiar with, it can be exhausting having to stay “on” all the time. Your home is meant to be your place of refuge, after all.
If you’re an introvert, you’ll benefit from finding ways to set boundaries and take space for yourself. Here are some ways to help you do so.
Be open about your needs to the people you’re living with. This may seem like a difficult or awkward conversation, but it doesn’t have to be.
Explain what it’s like to be an introvert. Let them know that even though you enjoy conversing and spending time with people, you can only do it with limits in order to avoid depletion. You can also find out how they operate and learn about their boundaries, too.
This way, you can create an environment of mutual respect. We’re all different, and communicating helps prevent misunderstandings.
Structuring your social time will help you create boundaries between socializing and being alone. It lets people know what times you can be approached.
Mealtimes are an easy opportunity to send a clear message that it’s your time to switch on. You can also schedule time to cook or bake together, do house chores like dishes, or make a plan to catch up in the evening over a drink or warm beverage.
Pay attention and adapt to your housemates’ rhythms. You can see which times they’re working or hanging out in common areas and alternate with them so you can maximize your alone time.
You might spend a lot of time in your room and avoid common areas. While it’s perfectly fine to take your space when you need it, you don’t want to feel trapped in there just because you’re not in the mood to socialize.
You can make use of a common area and still have space. Having your earphones in or reading a book is an easy way to signal to people that you’re not in a talking mood, without it coming across as rude.
It’s a common social cue that many will adjust to naturally.
Meditating can make you feel calmer while also energizing you at the same time. Your need to be alone likely comes from mental fatigue caused by engaging with others. Socializing can be overstimulating!
When you take out time to meditate, you’re not just creating a quiet space for yourself. You’re also quieting down your mind, which can be restful.
You can find apps or free videos on YouTube to help guide you through a 10- or 15-minute meditation. It can help you slow down, breathe, and center yourself so you’re better equipped to deal with your day.
Much like meditation, taking a walk can help you clear your mind. This can also be energizing. On top of that, it will help you get out of the house in a safe way to have some time alone.
Even though you want to be alone, it doesn’t mean you want to be isolated. Leaving the house can be a refreshing way to connect with the world outside without having to talk to anyone.
Being able to physically leave a space where you’re constantly surrounded by the same people can help you breathe a big sigh of relief.
Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t crave connection with others.
Watching something together means you’ll be spending time with someone without the pressure of full-on conversation. It can relax you and help you bond with whomever you’re spending time with.
You can talk and react to the show together, but it’s less pressure than a fully focused conversation.
It helps to have something specific to watch together: It’s something you can all look forward to.
While it may feel like an endless drain on your energy to be stuck at home with everyone else stuck at home too, carving out ways to rest and energize as you go may help lessen the stress.
You don’t need to feel bad for having boundaries. It’s your right to, and you deserve kudos for putting your own mental health first.
At the same time, when you’re happier and better rested, you’re a more pleasant person to be around. Taking your space is as much for you as it is for your relationships.
We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last, so creating habits that work for you is the key to keeping healthy and happy.
Mary Fawzy is a freelance writer who covers politics, food, and culture, and is based in Cape Town, South Africa. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.