SA Lockdown: Expert shares tips on how different personality types can cope during lockdown

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Illustration (Photo: Getty/Gall Images)
Illustration (Photo: Getty/Gall Images)

There have been memes aplenty about how introverts are dealing with lockdown versus how the more extroverted among us are coping. 

But jokes aside the struggle is real no matter what your personality type. Here experts unpack good ways to cope with life indoors. 

If you’re an extrovert

This personality type really is more prone to suffer mentally during isolation, compared to introverts. 

“We are social creatures and thrive off interaction with each other,” says Lauren Moss, a counselling psychologist from Sandton. “In the absence of face to face social connection we may begin to experience low energy, negative thoughts, a reluctance to simple things such as hygiene and preparing food.”

In her 2002 book, The Introvert Advantage, Dr Marti Olsen Laney says introverts are more sensitive than extroverts to dopamine, the chemical responsible for pleasure and reward. While introverts need less of it to feel its pleasant effects, extroverts, require more dopamine to be happy and activity, socialising and excitement increases dopamine production.

Tips for extroverts on how to cope

• Keep your social butterfly calendar as busy as you did before – with virtual get-togethers. From Microsoft Teams, FaceTime to Whatsapp and more, there are plenty of online platforms that allow for online meetings and you can use them to enjoy a quick coffee catchup or 5pm “quarantinis” update with a colleague to hosting virtual dinner parties, book clubs, dance parties, karaoke and exercise groups.

Invite keen friends and family to join or reach out to like-minded people on social media to possibly even make a few new friends.

“A video call doesn’t need to be a long talking session, it can be a quick check in. I think during this time it is crucial,” Moss says.

• Go ‘old school’ and make that phone call. Ask a friend or family member ahead of time if they’d be happy to chat for a while and make that call! Just hearing a loved one’s voice can lift your spirits.

• Experiment with online games and find one you like that allows multiple players.

• Start or adapt a current exercise routine. “Exercise is a well-known depression and anxiety fighter, so do some form of exercise which elevates your heart rate every day,” says Garth Newman, clinical psychologist in private practice based in Cape Town.

“If you struggle with the motivation to get moving, get other people involved by joining or starting a virtual exercise class with friends and family which will help with both motivation and feelings of isolation.”

If you’re an introvert

While you may have enjoyed the freedom of living a life of solitude before, being confined to your space during lockdown can bring a unique set of challenges that include loneliness, irritability, boredom and lack of motivation.

Introverts also need social connection and should be cautious of excessive isolation.

Tips for introverts on how to cope

• Be conscious of what you have within your control, says social neuroscientist Stephanie Cacioppo, director of Brain Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Chicago, who likens loneliness to a biological signal, like thirst or hunger.

“Think about right now and don’t let your mind wander to the future. Right now you can control your environment – the food you decide to eat, the clothing you decide to wear (for Zoom or otherwise). That gives you a sense of stability,” she says.

• Schedule regular video calling sessions with family and friends for everything from a five minute chat to longer Netflix viewing parties.

Send meeting requests ahead of time so you’re not tempted to back out – it’s important to feel connected. “Feeling connected comes down to the quality of your interaction regardless of physical proximity,” Cacioppo says. “As long as your brain understands that this is temporary, you don’t have to be in the same physical room to really gather with your family or friends.”

• Engage in enriching and time-consuming tasks such journaling or upskilling, whether for our job or a creative project.

• If you’re in the dating game, there’s no need to put a halt on it. You can continue to make meaningful connections from a safe distance.

“Getting to know each other a little better before we physically meet up is a slower start, so it’s great if you feel more comfortable taking baby steps online dating before meeting in person,” says US based dating coach Jenny Ella.

Make it fun while getting to know each other by playing games together or compete in trivia quizzes.

Additional sources: Independent, Telegraph, BusinessInsider, NYTimes, The Guardian, Forbes, Adaa, DailyMail, Time, Vogue, PsychologyToday, Familaddictionspecialist, Therapyroute, Psychcentral

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