Introverts, this one’s for you.
I’m sitting at my desk, home alone, with only the light of my laptop to light the room. Rain eerily taps against the open window and I suddenly realise that I’ve not spoken to anyone in about 12 hours. This might sound like the start of a horror film but for an introvert like me, this is heaven. Sweet, lonely heaven.
I love my husband, family, friends, work colleagues and all the people I’ve met online since I started writing about mental illness but by gosh, do I need my alone time. I mean real alone time, on the regular.
After several years of recoiling from every human interaction, I’ve become quite skilled at the art of pretending to be a ‘people person’. I’ve mastered making polite conversation with strangers, and realised that whilst said stranger talks I should think constantly about what to say next.
Filling in the gaps is essential to avoiding awkward silences and the dreaded ‘weather’ chat. If I have to pull out the weather card then I’ll always punctuate it with a convenient exit to the bathroom to buy me a few minutes of solitude before the next surge of energy is required and more small talk is thrown required.
Inevitably I’ll use the bathroom break excuse one too many times and realise that it’s probably time to exit the vicinity, instead of hiding in the en suite quietly watching You Tube videos or going through the receipts in my purse.
The point is, when you hit your limit as an introvert you just hit it. That’s it. With the pain and immediacy of a gunshot wound it needs urgent medical attention, otherwise the situation will be critical. For many introverts, a creative self-care routine is essential. Here are some ideas…
I’m no Mary Berry that’s for sure. Baking is an exact science, and as someone who’s prone to tossing in more than one haphazard substitutions I normally give it a miss. Spending hours mixing dry ingredients separately to wet ingredients only to combine them and forget to add something important- like eggs or sugar- is my idea of hell.
It’s a creative outlet for sure, but one which often leaves me feeling more deflated and useless than when I started. Luckily I’ve found the perfect solution which requires no skills whatsoever. Superfood Bakery offer pre-packaged mixes which are all natural, gluten-free and filled with superfoods.
Most recipes require the addition of an egg (I think I can manage to remember that ONE egg, although I’m not making any promises) or a vegan substitute such as one ripe banana. I tried out the Spirit Lifters Cookies last weekend and was pleasantly surprised that I managed to create 18 perfectly formed cookies with little to no effort!
No electric mixer needed and no last minute dash to pick up weird and wonderful ingredients. The best part was the feeling of accomplishment that came from honestly about 10 minutes work. The ultimate lazy girl activity. I got extra creative and made some vegan ice cream sandwiches with some Alpro dairy free vanilla ice cream too.
I’m not talking anything elaborate (although maybe you’re more committed to the cause than me) but scrapbooking some of your favourite photographs can be a nice way to remind yourself of happy memories. Practising gratitude is something a lot people advise for introverts with depression, and I find looking through old photos is a nice little nudge in the right direction. It reminds me of how much fun I have with my friends and family and often spurs me on to phone my mum, message a friend or set up a meet up in the future.
Being creative for the sake of creativity is something I’m a huge believer in. You don’t need to paint solely with the aim of creating a picture which will hang on your wall or be sold to a buyer. Paint because you love the feeling of mixing colours, brushing it onto canvas and making something out of nothing.
Upcycling is a way to get creative in a way which just happens to have a functional end result, assuming that you’re any good at it. I know someone who is a dab hand at upholstering chairs, repainting old furniture and even making new things such as wall-mounted shelves out of cabinet drawers. The best I’ve done is to rescue a wooden crate and paint it a nice mint green shade. It’s nothing exciting but I use it to house my recycled bottles and cardboard, and acts as a friendly reminder that I did something productive that day!
When you feel ready – possibly weeks later, no judgement here – you can revisit the list and group them into actions, feelings and worries. Now it’s time to create an action plan. Think logically about how to problem solve the negative feelings, kind of like a very informal CBT session. Prioritise the quick, easy jobs first and then schedule days and times for the rest. My tip would be to overestimate how long each task will take you, and try and tackle at least one job per day.
I’ve gone face-first into into the irresistible cream-cake that is stationery addiction and amassed quite a collection of Kikki.K notebooks. I’m strangely proud of this stockpile and find myself gravitating towards my notebooks when I need a little me time. I’ve even found myself muttering ‘I need my notebooks’ when I’m stressed, in a slightly strange manner.
I’m no Beyonce but when it comes to busting out a few moves at a Zumba class I like to think I’m just as good as anyone else in the room. I’ve genuinely seen some of the most uncoordinated introverts look blissfully at home in amateur dance classes. It’s such a joy to watch. Some of us just NEED a physical release. Dancing is one of those things that you can do around the house or out at the weekend, but in a class you get that wonderful group atmosphere and the camaraderie of people failing and succeeding at different speeds as the teacher set the routine for the group.
Although I consider blogging a part-time job it’s also a creative outlet for me. I used to think maybe blogging was a terrible pastime for an awkward little introvert like me. I was certain that I had to override my urge to be alone, but now I realise it’s just the way my brain works. I knew I had anxiety so I tried to force myself to fill up my time with social activities, hoping I could somehow change my personality through force. Now I’ve realised I actually need that alone time to keep me on an even keel the rest of the time.
Blogging is great because you can literally write about whatever you want and publish it instantly There are loads of very niche specific sites out there, so you’ll definitely find other people who are interested in what you have to say! I’ve found blogging is a form of therapy for me, a way to express my feelings and also talk to people online who have similar problems. There is a huge online community of mental health bloggers and I now totally feel part of something, even though it’s something I do alone from my laptop.
Think you’re not a good enough photographer to take it up as a hobby? That’s bullshit! Self-care activities from introverts aren’t about being the best at something, or even remotely good for that matter. Trust me, I’m a truly awful photographer! It’s about finding time for yourself and nurturing your creative side with all it’s flaws.
I use my iPhone and find it does just fine for taking basic snaps for Instagram and on the blog. There are loads of good guides out there which help you utilise the camera feature on your iPhone and some very helpful apps which can help you edit too.
In the same vein as stationery, organising is one of those hobbies that not everyone will understand. I got you girl, don’t worry. I’m in awe of those who can take the time to painstakingly file every book they own in alphabetical order. I long to have a wardrobe which is arranged by colour, displaying a majestic fabric rainbow every morning when I select my outfit for the day.
The truth is, organising your belongings can give you a great sense of pleasure but it doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. Your whole life does not have to be organised, but if your underwear drawer is neat and tidy then you can feel secretly smug as the rest of your life falls apart. When I have a bad relapse of depression I often shun the daily chores in favour of small tasks which really don’t need tackled, but make me feel better anyway.
You might want to audit your kitchen cupboards and throw out any out of date food, clean the insides and rearrange everything to make things easier to find. You can make a list of everything in your fridge and freezer then create a meal plan for the week in order to use up all the random things you have in there. Matching up odd socks is always a fun task. Joke – that is literally an impossible task which should not be attempted under any circumstances.
I studied art at school and although I never really immersed myself in the work of others. I’ve always been interested in visiting art galleries. A lot of them are free to visit and have a kick-ass gift shop where you can stock up on comedically huge erasers and crystal jewellery until you heart’s content. That aside, walking around in the eerie silence of an old building filled with historical paintings which have existed for hundreds of years is something that speaks to me deeply.
I’m not great at meditation, but this is a form of mindfulness that I can get on board with. My phone is turned off in my bag, there are minimal distractions and I get to tap into that creative part of my brain for an hour or so in relative peacefulness. End this outing with tea and cake in the cafe (what introvert dreams are made of) and you can consider yourself mentally invigorated and ready to take on the world.
Introverts, you got this
Self-care is not a substitute for medical help, but it’s a key addition to recovery from depression and working towards preventing a relapse. I’ve found being creative and learning to express my feelings is a big part of my self-care routine, and this might look different for every person. Finding a few activities that work for you is a great way to have a back-up plan for when you feel low, or crave alone time after a lot of social activity. Just remember, find something you enjoy and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s all about having fun and getting some creative satisfaction. For more info download my free eBook!
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As a creative introvert with anxiety, I’m forever adding projects to my list of jobs I’d love to do. It’s kind of overwhelming sometimes, but there’s just so much I want to try. Starting a podcast is something that I’ve toyed with for almost a year, but ultimately I don’t think I’ve got the time, technical abilities or the commitment to tackle this one just yet. Watch this space.
I’ve started a You Tube channel and it’s let me talk about mental illness in a new way which doesn’t involve blogging. But back to podcasting. When you’re feeling burnt out, tired, and in need of that recharge time which us introverts thrive on, you might want to consider listening to a podcast. For me it bridges that gap when you want alone time but with a little background noise. A friendly voice can do a lot to make you feel like you’ve been sociable when really you’ve sat at home all day scrolling through Pinterest and convincing yourself you don’t need to shower.
Is listening to podcasts creative though? I find that listening to entrepreneurial talks are really inspiring, and get me thinking about how I can create better content, focus my mind or look at new income streams for my business. Sometimes it will give me new ideas but it might also just confirm that I’m already on the right path, which is a welcome feeling for someone constantly worries they’re a complete failure. I also listen to a lot of true crime podcasts. It might sound weird (I know there are other Murderinos out there, hey, I see you) but I get enthralled in the details about serial killers, religious cults and crimes of passion. I also listen to feminist podcasts, ones about blogging, social media and little Desert Island Discs too. Whatever floats that boat of yours.
I know I’m not the only girl introvert who considers buying and using stationery an activity in itself. Concerned? Don’t be. I’ve been using stationery as a form of creative therapy for the past few months and it’s a game-changer. Get your highlighters at the ready gang.
I’ve found most negative feelings can be soothed with a tool known as a Brain Dumping. All you need to do is grab a scrap of paper (I’ll choose my £15 embossed, hardback dream journal but whatevz, no big deal) and dump all of your thoughts down on one page. The beauty of a Brain Dump is that you don’t need to do anything this these thoughts. Just leave ’em. The simple act of dumping them on the page is therapeutic enough that you’ll feel lighter, calmer and more relaxed by getting them off your mental to-do list and recorded on paper.