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Whatever you call it – lockdown, quarantine, stay-at-home, or self-isolation – being an extrovert in times of coronavirus is not easy.
Extroverts draw energy from people, whereas introverts draw energy from within. For highly extrovert people – like me – this is a difficult and challenging time. But there are tactics you can employ to get through the days and, potentially, weeks ahead.
From a scientific perspective, while introverts and extroverts both have the same amount of dopamine available to them, extroverts thrive on it, whereas introverts prefer to draw on another neurotransmitter – acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is linked to pleasure, like dopamine, but it makes us feel good when we focus inward.
So while extroverts use both neurotransmitters, they tend towards the sympathetic side of the nervous system, known to many as “fight, flight, or freeze.” This pushes us to discover new things and we prefer activities or situations that are daring and active.
So given that, how on earth can extroverts thrive in an environment where you may be stuck indoors, on your own, for an extended period of time?
The first thing you should do as an isolated extrovert is to create a daily routine and set up the right environment around you.
For me, that means waking up early, meditating, making my bed, and getting ready for the day ahead. Dress for work – don’t just stay in your PJs. Have breakfast, and if you’re isolating alone, schedule virtual breakfasts with friends so you can chat over coffee, tea, and your favorite breakfast items. Focus on eating protein-rich foods rather than overloading your system with carbohydrates and sugars.
Before you work, do something creative, fun, and throw away. When you play, you release a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates the “fight or flight” response extroverts crave, and also acts as a reset button on your brain, helping you to think clearer.
Make sure your work environment is exactly that – set up for work, with everything you need around you. And have a Bluetooth speaker near you. Music is going to be important for you during quarantine if you’re an extrovert.
Be there, even when you can’t
Technology is a marvelous thing. It makes the world a much smaller place thanks to a whole raft of messaging and conferencing services.
Scheduling video calls with friends is a great way to stay connected. You can use everything from the now ubiquitous Zoom, through to the brilliant, free, and unlimited Jitsi to talk to the people you work with, and the people you love the most around the globe.
And when work is done, there’s a Houseparty, where you can video chat with friends and friends of friends. From a psychological perspective, people that like each other tend to be like each other, so when you join a friend’s Houseparty room, and they’re already talking to someone new to you, there’s a good chance you’ll get on. It is a great way for extroverts to meet new, like-minded people – I’ve personally made some incredible new friends there.
Virtual DJs, musicians, dance parties, and more await to help you feel better about being in quarantine. Make judicious use of them!
Use your energy for good
While working remotely is a challenge for extroverts, you can channel your energy into projects you’ve been thinking about for years, but have never had the time to produce.
Remember that task list full of incomplete to-dos? Go do them! Finish off that project you’ve been playing around with, or even create a new venture.
And extroverts tend to have extensive communities and networks. One way to make you feel like you’re with people is to connect good people to each other for mutual benefit. Think about your network, and who would make a good pairing. Connect them, with the reason why you’re doing so, and watch your dopamine levels rise, helping you feel good about yourself and your situation.
Remember that extroverts need their introspection time too. You can’t take this as an opportunity to be “on it” 24/7, or you’ll risk the same burnout you can face in times of non-isolation.
Meditate. Practice self-care. Read a book. Watch Netflix. Play an instrument. Journal. Write down what you’re grateful for.
Extroverts need breaks from everything we traditionally need, just as introverts need an extrovert moment every now and then too.
Virtual isn’t everything
Most countries are allowing you to get out once a day for exercise or to buy essentials. Use that opportunity to get into nature, and feel more connected to the world by seeing other humans that are doing the same.
Don’t forget to take all precautions, and maintain your social distancing, but do get out there. In the UK, and many other countries, neighborhoods are going outside to applaud their healthcare workers, and in many cases, it’s the first time neighbors are seeing each other! Embrace that. Celebrate those essential workers that are putting themselves in the front line to help us all, but wave to your fellow citizens and get that community energy you crave.
Now, go do your thing, you extrovert. You’ll get through this, and I’ll see you on the other side of lockdown.