Walking and napping. These two activities are crucial to my life. They help me keep my head on straight. I had an in-depth conversation with a friend over a year ago where I detailed my need to nap. Perhaps because I’m an introvert and very sensitive (though I try to hide the latter) I get overwhelmed by the world around me pretty easily. I don’t always show it through blowing up and getting real upset, though that happens sometimes. Most often I find myself retreating from social situations. I also ruminate over every little thing, analyzing memories and going over what I should’ve done until it’s all that’s on my mind. That’s painful stuff, to beat yourself up over things repeatedly. So when I’m overwhelmed by situations and by the thoughts swirling around in my head, I close my eyes and let it fall away. Sometimes I don’t actually fall asleep, but empty my mind and tell myself to breathe instead, more or less meditating. When I do sleep, it’s usually for no more than 15-30 minutes. Just a power nap to keep me from entering deep sleep and messing up my circadian rhythm, which would leave me groggy. When I wake up the facts are still the same; what overwhelmed me actually happened and I can’t change that. But after the nap (or the meditation) I am in a better mood with a clearer mind. I can then handle the situation I’m in.
It works the same way with walking. Moving, my body works at something besides worry. The ambient noise of life around me–from twittering birds to car horns honking–puts me back in life, outside the situation that overwhelmed me. I may still think over things, but it’s from a more objective and clearer perspective. I make a point to walk somewhere calming. Senior year I would walk to a tree swing and just sit, rocking back and forth. Studying abroad in Exeter I walked in the gardens behind my flat or I would run an errand, walking into town with my shopping bag. During the walk I come up with a game plan of how to handle things. After the walk, I do what I need to do, whether it be finish an essay with a thesis I just thought up or get in touch with someone to talk to.
I’ve often been told I have a calm disposition. That used to surprise me because I experience the whirlwind of my mind. More and more now I’m embracing the calm I give off as a good thing, as something often true about me. I have to accept that I work better when my sense of life is even keel. Sometimes I forget that and try to model myself after other people. Many people I know reach for coffee when they concentrate. Some people go out and party. Coffee makes me feel jittery which makes me feel overwhelmed which makes me want to nap so I then feel sleepy. Partying makes me feel more self-conscious. I’m figuring out when it’s best to nap and to walk. Sometimes I need to follow these up or precede them with prayer or spending time with a close friend. Being labeled as shy, I grew accustomed to the idea that being alone is the best way to for me to handle life. That’s not true. Many times people are the greatest help. But there are times the solitude is good for me to re-energize. That’s what introversion is about: getting your power from being alone or at least quiet, and then being able to go back out and interact.
I was reminded today of a book I want to put on my summer reading list: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. I anticipate having a lot put into perspective for me after reading that book. In the meantime, above are some of my thoughts and ways of getting through my world as an introvert, trying to balance the social with a lot of the calm of solitude.
(To clarify, I don’t think solitude is only necessary for introverts and not all introverts may find these things necessary. This is just how I deal with things. Extroverts need time to themselves too. I just know that when I need to get my energy back, I find time alone and then go out to be with people. If extroverts would like to share their feelings about dealing with life, please do below! 🙂