Social Distancing is Stressful for Introverts Too

As it turns out, in order for me to feel “safe and happy” in my sheltered little work-from-home-borderline-hermit lifestyle, I really NEED for everyone else to be happy, thriving, and out making the world go ’round. When they’re sad, I’m sad. When they’re stressed, I feel it too.

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Well, that was unexpected. Within a matter of days we went from one of the best economies we’ve ever seen to record-setting drops and lows.

Are you under a shelter-in-place, quarantine, or self-isolation order? Of course, many of us are due to efforts to control the spread of the world’s most recent respiratory viral pandemic, COVID-19. While the authorities know they can’t control how many people get it (we will all eventually be exposed), they are trying to avoid a situation where we all get it at once and overwhelm the hospital systems resulting in catastrophic loss of life.

Initially, as I began to read about “social distancing” and what would be asked of us – work from home, stay at least six feet away from other people, limit shopping and dining to only the essentials, and drive through when possible – I thought this sounded like my version of Utopia. They were describing my life. I wouldn’t have to make any changes at all!

I knew it was going to be hard on my extrovert friends and family (and it has been), but I was unprepared for the extra stress I’ve experienced.

But Then it Backfired

As it turns out, in order for me to feel “safe and happy” in my sheltered little work-from-home-borderline-hermit lifestyle, I really NEED for everyone else to be happy, thriving, and out making the world go ’round. When they’re sad, I’m sad. When they’re stressed, I feel it too.

While some industries are thriving right now as they provide essential services, most of us are experiencing the stress of the downturn in the economy – work projects have halted, income has stopped, and the near future is uncertain. I think we’ll overcome that pretty quickly because our economic structure is still in place, and pent-up demand for goods and services should balance out the fiscal year for most industries. Economically, this is more of “hiatus” rather than a classic recession.

Emotionally and mentally however? This is going to leave a mark.

Research has shown that new habits and lifestyles are formed in 18-254 days. We began talking about “social distancing” here in the United States around the fourth week in January and there is no end in sight. Like it or not, it is changing our culture. Those of us who have always been germ-conscience might be able to see some benefits to this, but the emotional toll of people being afraid to be in the presence of other people? That’s not healthy.

When it’s Not by Choice

Sure, as an introvert, I like to hole up in my apartment when I’m doing it BY CHOICE. When the rest of the world is in functioning as normal, this means that I can choose when, how, and how often I socialize with others. I can choose to either stay home or go out to eat. I can go shopping when I want, because if society is functioning at a healthy level it will be there for me when I’m ready.

But this situation? No.

I look out my window at empty streets, empty school yards in March, cars still in the drive in the middle of the week, and it’s very unsettling. I can feel the stress, the sadness, and the frustration of people who want to get back to work but can’t. I go to the grocery, and in spite of what we’re hearing about the supply chain not being interrupted, some essentials are not available – eggs, toilet paper, pain relievers, bleach.

People are having to cancel weddings, vacations, graduations, and even funerals indefinitely. We’ve entered into some sort of bizarro world that has people jokingly asking if we should start dressing like characters in the post-apocalyptic movies we’ve grown-up watching. We’re more likely to be riding this one out behind our computers in our comfy PJ’s instead of those steampunk outfits (which look cool also very uncomfortable). But we need to be just as ready to fight to preserve our mental health.

Even before this pandemic, our culture was moving toward one of social isolation, and the need to control the spread of germs is exacerbating that. It’s important that we actively fight against the fallout. Use the telephone. Reach out to friends and family by email, by text, or on the social networks. Remember to find the humor in life and continue to be grateful for what we do have. Whether we’re naturally introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in-beween, we’re all in this together and we’re going to get through this.

This post, by Jenn Pointer, was originally posted on – resources for midlife career transitions.

Many thanks to Jenn Pike of Jen X Journal for reposting this on her blog (and helping with the formatting). Jenn Pike is a fellow GenX-er who lives in Los Angeles, CA, USA, and London, England, and writes for the midlife chic. Be sure to go check out her blog at


1 comments on “Social Distancing is Stressful for Introverts Too”

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