Being an introvert can take its toll. Extroverts draw energy from social interactions, the thrill of engaging with others. On the other hand, introverts are energized by time spent alone, having time to think and reflect. However, the daily requirements of day to day life, especially for parents, can whittle that reflective time down to almost nothing, leaving someone who leans more introverted with very little in the tank at the end of each day.
If this sounds like you or your partner, there are small ways to conserve energy and keep everything in line. It simply means finding ways to manage time properly, creating space to recharge, and approaching each day with a plan. Here’s how to do just that.
Take Time to Prioritize
Thinking about everything that has to get done in a day can leave anyone feeling emotionally spent — particularly introverts. It’s important to take some comfort in knowing that you can’t do everything and that, truthfully, you shouldn’t do everything. Try some triage when planning your day, knowing that your time and energy is limited and scheduling out the things that need to get done versus the things that can wait. You might be surprised by how much time you actually save.
Additionally, it’s essential to take stock of what’s important in your child’s life and make sure that you’re putting their needs ahead of your own. “Often times introverts will procrastinate to avoid situations,” says life and business coach Ali Zabel. “This might have them dropping off their children late to avoid having to socialize with other parents. Communicating with their children and setting realistic expectations with themselves will allow them to better manage their lives as an introverted parent.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Text
As much as introverts might like to avoid social interaction, for parents, it just isn’t an option. Playdates, school activities, and neighborhood get-togethers are a part of a parent’s life and are very important for the social and emotional needs of children. However, for an introvert, setting up the social occasions can sometimes be emotionally draining. Instead of making playdates over the phone, get the cell numbers of the parents at school and in the neighborhood and arrange everything via text. “Texting can take the fear out of talking with another parent,” says Katie Ziskind, a marriage and family therapist, “and help introverts feel more confident in their parenting abilities.”
Take Advantage of “Introvert Retreats”
In the day to day, over-scheduled world of raising kids, it might be hard to find a moment to yourself sometimes. However, there are ways to find a little space to re-energize that won’t cut into your parenting duties or cause any raised eyebrows from the people around you. When you’re out in a social situation with your kid, take a moment alone with just him or her, strolling around the restaurant or walking outside under the pretense of getting some fresh air.
“It’s an easy and socially graceful way of creating ‘inner space,’ getting a break from social conversation, enjoying the imaginative play, singing, or dancing with your little one, or reflecting in your own thoughts,” says Michael Alcee, a clinical psychologist who works with introverts and ambiverts. “What’s more is that it’s a time in which nobody will look at you funny or think you are selfish for taking more time for yourself.”
A popular tool in the corporate world of project management, timeboxing involves not going a few rounds with a clock but rather allocating a certain amount of time only for a planned activity. The benefits of timeboxing for introverted parents are numerous. For example, it can help make interaction more manageable if you know that there’s a fixed endpoint for the activity. Even if your instinct is to leave early, knowing that you have already allocated a certain amount of time can help you to get through more painlessly.
Additionally, says Itamar Shatz, a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge University and author of Solving Procrastination, timeboxing can allow introverts much-needed recharge time, finding spots throughout the day where they can have time to themselves. “For example,” he says, “if you’re about to go to a long event at your kid’s school, and you know that you’re going to need to take a break from all the people there during the event, you could timebox a 10-minute period for yourself at some part of the event where you can head outside to clear your head, but after which you need to head back in and keep participating.”
Don’t Forget About Exercise
Even a short, 21-minute workout session can release enough endorphins to reduce stress, improve your mood, and help realign your mind so you can face the day. It also helps improve your sleep patterns, which can do wonders for easing your time management woes. “The better your sleep is, the less groggy and tired you’ll feel in the morning,” says Rebecca Park, a registered nurse and founder of the natural health resource Remedies For Me. “Exercising boosts energy and adrenaline levels. Also, morning energy lasts several hours throughout the day.”
Take Time to Reflect
At the end of every day, no matter how tired you are, give yourself a few minutes to look back on the day’s events. Look at what worked and what didn’t, while taking stock of times that you felt good and times where you felt stressed out or keyed up. During your reflection, see if you can find one way to improve the next day. “When you spend five minutes reflecting each day,” says Katie McIntyre, campaign manager for the Monk Manual, a quarterly planner designed to help people live more productively, “you see clear paths to improving your experiences throughout the day.”
Ask for Help
It’s common for many parents to feel as though they have to take everything on themselves and that, if they aren’t able to, they’re somehow failing their partners, their children, and themselves. However, the truth is, if you’re tired, stressed, and pushed past your limits, you’re not going to be any good to anyone. It’s okay to ask someone for help, even if it’s to give yourself some time to get yourself back on track. “Work with your partner to establish a tag team approach so that you can get a short break before you get what I call ‘introvert hangover’, the inevitable crabbiness and edginess that comes with being overly drained,” says Alcee. “Take this seriously and try to learn how to read your partner’s cues for their need to ‘tag out.’”
Focus on What Your Grateful For
At the start of each day, take a minute and write down three things that you’re grateful for. Even if you just jot them down on your phone right when you get out of bed, that small acknowledgment of the good things in your life can help center you and put your day in perspective. “When you focus on the things you’re grateful for, you feel lighter and more energized throughout the day,” says McIntyre. “It helps you appreciate both your alone time and the time you spend interacting with those around you.”