How to deal with self-isolation as an introvert

The promise of spending weeks inside isn’t so cute if you have to share your space with umpteen others. Here’s a guide to avoiding loneliness and overexposure.

by Douglas Greenwood
17 March 2020, 9:52am

When the news went around your office that everybody was better suited to work from home in the wake of COVID-19’s spread, there was, most likely a mix of apprehension and relief that came over you. On one hand, the news of the virus infiltrating communities at such a rapid pace is scary, but you’re now blessed that you don’t have to navigate a filthy transport network and share airspace with hundreds of others in an office building for the time being.

So if you’re an introvert, the idea of self-isolation and social distancing might seem like a relief of sorts. Finally, you have your own space and don’t have to worry about making small talk with others. Your home is your haven, and cancelling social plans no longer feels like you being dramatic, but rather cautious and responsible.

So the door slams behind you and you’re supposed to be in your element. But there’s baggage now. If you live at home, or in a major city in the midst of a housing crisis too, chances are you’re going to be sharing your space with a bunch of other people, be it family members, flatmates, partners or friends. Until now, you might’ve had the opportunity to jump outside, for a walk, or to head to the movies for some alone time. But your options are suddenly limited. Now, the few hours of the day in which your schedule crossed over with those you lived with is swiftly becoming all of them. If you need your own space, that can be a lot. But here are some tips that might help you get through this very weird and uncertain time.

Make your room your haven

Unless you’ve been in contact with someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus, or have travelled to any of the countries highlighted as dangerous zones, you don’t have to spend all of your time inside one confined room. So if you have free roam of the rest of your house (even a kitchen is a better place to spend time than where you sleep), make sure your bedroom becomes a place of retreat rather than your new home for the foreseeable future. Clean it, light a nice candle, and use it to do things that make you happy, rather than work. That way, if you ever do need to take five in your own space, you have somewhere that feels like a refuge rather than a prison.

Set yourself goals

The byproduct of this whole self-isolation thing is that your productivity levels drop substantially, as you suddenly realise that chatting in the Slack thread while in your pyjamas is not, quelle surprise, a kind of luxury, but a depressing symptom of late capitalism bleeding into every corner of your life. Whether you’re working or just doing something as a hobby – knitting, writing, whatever – setting yourself goals gives you an excuse to zone out of the humdrum of annoying people who won’t STFU and get things done. Suddenly, you might find that being in the company of others reminds you a little more of having someone to have a procrastination chat with mid-shift in your office. It’s all about context, really.

Don’t cut off completely

We’d be lying if we didn’t say that the temptation to lock ourselves in our bedrooms and get on with shit wasn’t overwhelming, whether there’s a virus spreading or not. But it’s worth mentioning that doing so right now might not be the most productive option. Talking to people and remembering that even in isolation we don’t have to be alone is hugely important. Take time for yourself, of course, and don’t be afraid to leave a room to do your own thing every so often. But stay in contact with those closest to you (health status depending!) and talk about stuff. Our instinctual fight or flight mentality always teaches us to hone in on the most threatening or dismal situation in order to avoid it; talking about something other than the news cycle should help you instil a little bit of hope.

Vocalise your insecurities

Introverts often have niggling insecurities tied to social settings, hence why we choose to shut ourselves off behind closed doors. Often, if you’re forced to share one of these settings to maintain some sense of normality, you might keep your mouth shut so that others don’t think you’re a weirdo -- but reader, don’t do that. Take it from someone who’s fear of germs and bacteria is so strong that they’ve been washing their hands more than 20 times a day for the past decade: now is the time to tell people that you’re unhappy about something. Can someone not wash their hands before prepping food, or refuse to clean up after themselves? Then, for the love of god, now -- as you’re piled on top of each other in the same household -- is the time to tell them that. The short term awkwardness won’t be as painful as the repercussions in your own head.

Remember that everything is temporary

Introvert or not, this is the one thing that’s worth remembering during self isolation. The future might look precarious and scary for now, and the idea of being stuck inside can feel like it might last for an eternity, but it won’t. Everything is temporary, and this current COVID-19 outbreak is too. The best thing to do in the meantime is remain vigilant, wash your hands, don’t touch your face and remember that there’s a whole bunch of fun to be had once this is out of the way. Be patient and wait it out, cancel plans that might make you nervous, and savour the good side of having your own company for a while. Before long, this will all get better.

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