Have you ever felt out of place in a group because you don’t tell loud, animated stories like the extrovert across the room? Society seems to encourage extroversion, which can leave introverts feeling a bit awkward.
It’s not that introverts are antisocial or don’t like being with people. The issue is more about where they get their energy. Extroverts get recharged by being with people, which is inconceivable for many of us introverts. We need alone time to regroup and renew our energy banks.
I’ve found it helpful to better understand what makes introverts tick. Instead of trying to fit into an extroverted mold, finding ways to tap into my strengths as an introvert has made my life way easier and more fun.
These are some of my favorite takeaways.
1. Determine your own style
Introversion and extroversion are two very broad personality classifications. But people are individuals, we don’t fit into exact classifications.
If you’re not sure where you land on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, Quiet Revolution has a short quiz you can take.
A fundamental part of introversion is being recharged by alone time, or sometimes one-on-one time with someone you know well. Crowds and too much noise often leave an introvert feeling overwhelmed and spaced out.
Another natural tendency is to think before acting. For instance, an extrovert might respond to an email right away, whereas an introvert will likely go away and ponder a thoughtful response first. Also, introverts often feel energized by intense focus on an interesting subject or activity.
It’s important to determine your own boundaries for what gives you energy and what leaves you feeling depleted. This is different for everyone. Once you find a balance that works, you’ll be able to do what you want to do without the burnout or feelings of overwhelm.
2. Understand what overstimulates you
Introverts often find certain situations overwhelming, such as noisy environments, being interrupted by others while you’re in the middle of a task, socializing in large groups or being pressured to make snap decisions.
These situations would be considered part of a normal day for an extrovert, so it’s easy to belittle how disturbing these can be for an introvert.
Pay attention to how you feel if you’re suddenly interrupted or expected to act quickly. Self-awareness is key to being able to proactively deal with these types of events.
The books Quiet, by Susan Cain, or The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine Aron, also have some great insights on understanding introversion and potential triggers for stress.
3. Schedule solitary down time
Many of us feel pressured to achieve and be productive, and scheduling down time may seem like an indulgence. But constant activity can burn out an introvert and do more harm than good.
There are biological reasons for this as well. Studies have found that introverts have more brain activity in regions associated with learning, motor control, recalling events, making plans and solving problems. Whereas, extroverts are much more easily stimulated by external senses and experiences.
Researchers believe this is a biological basis for why introverts tend to focus inwards and extroverts focus outwards. Scheduling time to be alone for solo activities nourishes this natural tendency of an introvert to look within.
It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Get a feel for how long it takes you to cool down and relax. Book time into your daily calendar for a ten minute walk, reading for half an hour or simply staring at your toes for as long as you need.
4. Find an appropriate career
Consider your personal needs when choosing a career. Have you found you get particularly overstimulated by being around too many people? Then face-to-face sales or other highly social jobs are likely not for you.
More jobs are allowing options for telecommuting where you can work from home. Spending the day working alone can be recharging for an introvert, rather than the effort it can take to go to a busy office.
If you do have an office or other social job, try to find ways to take care of yourself. Close your office door if you have one. Go for solo walks outside during your coffee breaks. Find tasks you can do by yourself. And try to plan your day as best you can to prevent any sudden interruptions coming up.
5. Communicate your needs to others
Introverts can have a different way of communicating than extroverts. Explaining your personal communication style to extroverted people in your life will help them better understand where you’re coming from.
A nemesis of many introverts is small talk. Introverts are more interested in getting to know someone better or discussing a pressing global issue rather than exchanging chatter about the weather.
You can also explain to others that you prefer to think things through before responding to emails or abrupt requests. You’re not ignoring the person, you’re just making sure they get the attention and proper response they deserve.
Also let any people you live with know your need for privacy. Let them know it’s not personal if you go to your room for a while. Assure them that after you get a bit of quiet time, you’ll be ready to rejoin the household.
6. Realize it’s alright to plan
Don’t ever feel pressured to accept a last-minute invitation. This can often be overwhelming for an introvert. We prefer to have some time to mentally prepare for an event. Just let the person who invited you know you feel tired and need time to regroup.
When you do make plans, it’s alright to schedule them a few weeks in advance. This will give you time to prepare and you’ll likely enjoy the outing more than accepting a sudden invitation that makes you uncomfortable.
But also be aware of the flip-side. Introverts can dwell on a decision for a long time. Be aware when you should act on something rather than getting stuck in over-thinking.
7. Create an oasis
Introverts need a space where they can be alone and recharge, preferably a room in your home where you can shut out the world and have some time just for you.
You can include a good collection of books, your computer, a cot, art supplies or whatever you need to properly unwind.
If anyone ever bugs you about going to your cave, tell them you’re helping everyone by taking care of yourself and ensuring you’re the best introvert you can be.
This post originally appeared on Care2.com.