Thursday, November 17, 2016

Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert? What Does This Have to do With Wellness?

In my opinion, everything.  I am going to share what I have noticed from personal experience and patterns I have noticed in clients.  I have read articles on the internet about extroverts getting more energy from being around people and introverts getting more energy from spending time alone.  There are exceptions and variations, as not everyone fits into one box all of the time.  I read one article that went over the variations.  According to that article, I am the outgoing introvert.  I am not shy, but I prefer most of my time spent alone.  Whether or not I'm a chatty Cathy or the most quiet person in the room, depends on how well I relate to those around me.  I noticed a big difference in my pain levels being at their worst, when I used to try to stuff this down, pretend to be something that I'm not and not express my needs.  Many years later, I am bold with my needs with very little pain.  I have also noticed a correlation in pain levels and ability to express in my clients as well.

The reason I have decided to pick this topic, is because I believe enough other people will be able to relate enough to find this beneficial.  Those who can't relate, might be able to better understand introverts.  The main premise of this blog, is to encourage you to do something for yourself.  Because if you don't, your health will pay the price.  My health is my number one priority.  It is more important to me than my family, friends and clients.  Because without it, I am no help to anyone.  For example, I get my energy from endorphins.  Caffeine either has me too wired or completely crashed, with nothing good in between.  My workout days are on the same days of the week I see clients.  I wake up early enough to do it before work.  On the plus side, I am more present for my clients and they get me at my best.  On the other hand, good luck getting a hold of me while I am getting ready for work.  And clients do often need to get a hold of me in the morning.  My phone is on silent during my workouts because putting myself first makes me a more effective therapist.  Also, as an introvert, my workouts are the time of the day that I look forward to most, because it's my "me time" to myself.  I do not let other obligations interfere and do not skip my workouts to handle a crisis.  The reason why, everyone deserves me at my best.

I am going to give examples on what I do for myself as an introvert, to be at my best.  These are examples and not advice.  Some of the stuff I do is quite bold and may not be right for everyone.  One thing I have discovered about myself over the years, is that I work better with people one on one.  That's why being a physical therapist assistant student did not work out, but being a massage therapist is second nature as if I have been doing it my whole life.  I interact with people better one on one than I do in groups.  This is an important thing to know about yourself when it comes to applying for jobs, in order to not set yourself up for failure.

One thing that I find interesting to observe in our culture, is how introverts get shamed.  Some of them are the most brilliant at their craft, but get turned down on job offers due to "lack of interpersonal communication".  How many of us felt forced into unnatural interactions due to the dreaded mandatory company party.  Just to get a lot of dirty looks over the awkwardness of not knowing what to say.  When I was a music major in college, my instrument is clarinet.  During finals week every year, there was a clarinet studio party.  It was mandatory, in order to pass our private lessons.  Forced interaction on my part led to dirty looks.  They wanted to go around the room and have everyone share their most fun and memorable music school experience.  I struggled so hard to fit in in music school, that I had nothing to share.  I hated school and was trying to stick it out for the degree.  Shaming the introvert with forced interaction is what I would call it. Also, my husband and I both had to have a grueling music education interview in order to get accepted into the music education program.  The only interviewing experience I had at that point in my life, were after school and summer jobs where the whole interview was "when can you start?"  We were both told we lacked interpersonal communication.  What's interesting, is when I switched to a bachelor of arts degree and picked communications as my minor, the heads of the communication department were shocked that I was told that and strongly disagreed.  I think I will listen to the communication experts on that one.  I did not fit in in the music program, therefore I came off and quiet and shy.  I am anything but.  I am very bold and outspoken, but that is a side of me they never saw.  How many introverts can relate to that?

Anyway, I am going to share some stuff that I do for myself to create safe spaces for myself.  I make sure I have at least one day a week where I do not have to be anywhere outside of the house.  If I do not do this, I crash and burn.  When going to my home state to visit family, my husband's father can be rather combative when he has to be right.  When we were younger and broke, we had no choice but to stay with family when we visited.  So I packed my walking shoes and wind breaker outfit and decided if there was a heated discussion, that I was leaving.  I told my mother in law about my plan.  Now that we are in our forties, we stay at a hotel instead of with family.  For the first time, I feel like I can genuinely enjoy the visits and actually miss people when we leave to come home.  I cannot be on social interaction obligation 24/7 and need someplace to stay that is just myself and my husband.  That way I can take care of myself in a way that is not considered rude if I were a guest in someone else's house.  I have yoga apps on my ipad and can wake up to yoga in my hotel room without feeling guilty.  If I were a guest in someone else's home, I would get a dirty look as if I were being rude.  When I return to my hotel room in the evening, I can shut down and read a book, without it being considered antisocial.  I was raised with a lot of guilt and lectures growing up, due to my need to shut down on occasion.  Taking care of my needs first, helps me enjoy my visits.  Before we started staying at hotels, I dreaded every visit and couldn't wait to go home.  That made me a tense person to be around and wasn't fair to anyone else.  This is why I see taking care of ourselves as selfless and not doing so as selfish.  I grew up with a mother who was not able to take care of herself first, due to no fault of her own and being around her was like constantly walking on eggshells.  When we don't put our own needs first, everyone else around us wonders when we're going to blow.