Stylist’s Chloe Gray explains why, as an introvert, she’s worried about post-lockdown burnout.
I have only taken a sleeping tablet once. I was in New York and the jet lag was awful, but the day after that knockout sleep was worse. Walking felt like I was pulling my body through treacle. My brain felt like it was on a Zoom call with a five second delay. I’ve felt like this before though, albeit not through a tablet. It’s the same kind of feeling I get after spending too much time surrounded by others.
I have known for a long time that I am an introvert. People are quite surprised when I describe myself like that; I talk confidently, loudly, boldly. I love parties. I adore seeing my friends. But, in order to function like that, I need time alone to recharge my batteries. That’s because introverts like me get their energy from being alone. When I schedule in activity after activity with no rest, I find myself feeling that sticky, slow brain fog, like I haven’t given myself time to overcome the side effects of socialising.
So now being in lockdown with just one other person in my house, I feel very lucky to not be feeling the same lethargy as my friends who generate their energy from being in groups of people. When a friend recently said to me “I can’t wait to be in a room filled with other people” I had a sudden overwhelming feeling of fatigue. It was a crucial reminder to me of the fact that it is non-negotiable to take time for myself to recharge in order to be my most confident self when the time to socialise does arrive.
Looking forward, I’m worried. Even since the rules have been slightly eased, and in England we are now free to lie in the sun with one person outside of our household, I have been feeling jittery. Over the bank holiday weekend, I ended up seeing a different friend each day. Sometimes more than once: Saturday morning was spent having a coffee and socially distanced workout with my friend in the courtyard outside her house. Saturday afternoon was spent drinking gin in the park with another. I loved every second of seeing two of my best friends, and came back from both feeling high.
But with the end of lockdown somewhat in sight, I know that these plans will only get bigger from here. And I’m grateful for that – I am so grateful that I have friends waiting to see me, wanting to make plans and spend their precious time with me. But as I dream up big ideas with every person I know for post-lockdown parties and dinners and weekends away, I picture myself struggling to cope.
Before lockdown, my friends and I very much accepted the fact that we were all slightly burnt out from too many social events. So much so that often I would metaphorically pencil in plans, with the anticipation that they may very well be cancelled due to the fact that all of our diaries were bursting. But post-lockdown, I don’t imagine the same empathy or acceptance of rescheduled dinners and nights in instead of out.
After spending what will be over three months secluded, the idea of needing to spend time alone will, to some, seem unfathomable. Any excuse I have as to not see people or do things will feel unjustifiable, so I know that I will spend the first few weeks at least with a schedule that’s just as unsustainably full as it was in March. So now the question is: how do I implement my own style of self-care, which involves scheduling time in for me to recharge, among the excitement of post-lockdown plans? I am yet to figure that out, but I’m ready to prioritise what’s best for me and my sense of self when this is eventually all over.