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Introverts Look Toward End Of Quarantine With Anxiety

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Office workers sitting at desks.

Mass vaccinations could be the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic, and the health orders and life disruptions that came with it. But some people may not be excited about returning to the workplace.

Meagan Connley has mixed feelings about the pandemic's end. From a health perspective, she's ready for it to be over, but Connely is an introvert and recognizes she's benefited from being able to work from home.

"Since I am here alone it has been really nice. When I think about going back to work and going back to normal, I think there is a little anxiety there," she says.

Being an introvert isn't like being shy. Connely says anyone, even extroverts, can be shy.

The difference between introverts and extroverts is where you get and give your energy, according to Tina Cadavid, a clinical social supervisor and therapist.

"I think often introverts are people who gain energy by being alone, by being able to go at their own pace, being able to think and to not be rushed or put in situations where energy is taken," says Cadavid.

Those include social interactions at work or elsewhere. Cadavid works with introverts at her Mt. Lookout practice, and has some friends who describe themselves as introverted. She says she's seen a number of people who've benefited from lockdowns and working from home.

"There were certainly points where even introverts would say 'O.K., I'm ready to be around some people.' I think this was certainly an exception to the norm over this last year," Cadavid says. "All in all, thriving is the word I would use for a lot of them."

Businesses are starting to discuss bringing employees back to the office. Restaurants and bars are eyeing fewer restrictions on capacity. Some introverts are feeling anxiety after a year of living and working on their own terms.

Meagan Connely says she's lucky her employer is thinking about her needs and the needs of other introverts. The company started a task force.

"I've started to participate in that as part of a focus group," Connely says, "to provide input and say, 'Hey, not everyone's going to want to go back, and if we do go back, here are things that are going to make it more comfortable, and here's rules or flexibility that we're going to want to be given.'"

The irony of having to act like an extrovert to speak up for introvert needs doesn't escape Connely.

"I think as an introvert it can be hard to do that sometimes," she says. "It can be hard to figure out how do I get the energy to speak up for this and who are the right people to talk to, and how do I not have this conversation 20 times. I am flexing a bit (but) at the same time this is something I'm very passionate about."

Connely wrote an article about the needs of introverts in the workplace and says it's been well received by her employer and coworkers. Her friends are also on alert: She's not ready to pick up where she left off.

"Things have really been working for me in the past year and I won't be able to do what I did before having this taste of space and freedom," Connely says. "I think I've been trying to put the feelers out there. I love game nights, smaller things, deep conversation, one-on-one hanging out."

Connely says going to a loud bar or a crowded restaurant just isn't appealing. She hopes that aversion to crowds will change but she's not ready to jump back in.

Cadavid says for any introvert preparing to return to in-person interaction, self-care is key. That can be as simple as stopping and taking a deep breath.

"Whether that be career-wise or socially or within your family, say, 'Is this helpful or harmful to me? Will this help me gain energy or will I feel tired and exhausted by it afterwards?' I think I can really help direct anybody, both introverts and extroverts," Cadavid says.

Cadavid says the past year hasn't been easy, but it did allow people to slow down and take stock of their lives. She says now's the time to look back at what worked and discard what didn't.