Why it’s okay to be less social than usual

If you read nothing but the first sentence of this article, I want you to know that being less social and taking time for yourself is completely respectable and a positive thing to do.
If you know me, you probably recognize me as a very extroverted person who loves everything to be happening all the time. I love to go-go-go. I aim to find those moments of organized chaos that give everyone a little bit of stress but ultimately work out. Or, at least, I usually do.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I have found myself increasingly identifying with introverted qualities. Hanging out with others drains my energy rather than recharges it, and I need a lot more alone time than I ever even wanted before last March. Being alone used to be the boring time in between my social commitments and extracurricular activities. Now, ample time to be alone is exactly what I need to participate in any of those things at all. The pandemic has drawn my energy away from things outside my direct contact. I have had to focus more intently on my surroundings in order to keep up my daily life. I have chosen to take time to work on becoming happier and healthier amidst the chaos in our world, and this has often meant pulling away from some acquaintances.
This change in my energy source has caused a good deal of stress in my life. I have spent significantly less time with friends, be it virtually or in-person, than I normally would. As a result, I have felt guilty for talking to other people less than usual. I have repeatedly told myself that it must mean I am a bad friend or that I’m lazy and am not putting enough effort into the relationships that I am a part of. It took me all these months to recognize that those statements aren’t true.
The truth is, dealing with several types of crises at the same time is enormously draining. We are moving forward every day under new circumstances than the day, the week or the month before. So much is uncertain that it becomes tiring to focus on things that might eventually change, which includes making plans with friends or trying to keep up to speed on everyone’s lives. It does not benefit anyone if you are pulling yourself in seven different directions just to try and mimic regular life. It’s much better for you and your friends if you are rested and ready to interact with them. Hanging out on facetime while you feel exhausted inside is not productive interaction. Instead, focus on what you need to feel rested and then come back to hang out once you both feel ready to invest in the other.
We are all going through this pandemic together and that means we all have some concept of how difficult it can be. If you need to take time to press pause and rest up, nobody is going to be upset at you for it. And if they are, they probably don’t care all that much about your wellbeing anyway. Your happiness is just as important as the happiness of your friends and family, and deserves just as much attention as you give to theirs. Don’t intentionally neglect yourself in hopes that you might help someone else. You will be more helpful if you have taken care of your needs before trying to take care of someone else’s.
In conclusion, give yourself a break. Don’t put more pressure on your brain than you need to. Take your time with social interactions; don’t force yourself to spend time with people when what you really need is time alone. Your company will be more enjoyable if you take that time away first. And finally, if your friend expresses a need to be alone for a while, listen to them. This is not the same Fall semester as any of us were expecting, which means that the expectations we have for our friends have to change as well.
Gusties, you deserve to be happy. Take the time you need to make that happen.