If you’re familiar with the personality framework of introversion and extroversion, you most likely know that the way each personality handles social situations is very different from the other. You may even know which end of the spectrum you lean most towards. But did you know that the way you handle stress can also be linked back to this framework? Additionally, the best coping mechanisms for one may not be well-suited for the other.
We spoke with Megan Graves, a licensed clinical social worker manager at Texas Health Behavioral Health, get her insight into how the unique qualities of each personality lends itself to dealing with stress effectively, as well as tips for how to figure out the best coping mechanism for you.
Understanding the Personalities
To better understand how these personalities tackle stress, you need to understand the aspects of each.
Introverts tend to be very independent and comfortable navigating tasks on their own. They tend to be very self-aware and introspective, enjoy solitude and quiet, and cherish a small social network. They also feel most at ease in the comfort of their own home and rely on time alone to recharge after engaging with other people.
On the flip side, extroverts are those who feel most authentically themselves when they are around other people. They thrive on social connection, spontaneity, and action. Because of this, they tend to keep a very busy schedule and feel energized by being around others.
However, there are nuances to both. You could be a shy or anxious extrovert, especially in new social settings, or be a social introvert among familiar faces. Graves says a more accurate way to look at the two personalities is by understanding what drains you and what energizes you.
What Stresses the Personalities
Stress is not mutually exclusive to extroverts or introverts; everyone experiences stressful situations regardless of their personality traits. However, there are a few stressful situations that can differ between the two.
“Introverts can easily become distressed particularly when they are over-stimulated. This can be from a loud environment, multitasking, unpredictability, and excessive social interaction,” Graves explains. “Extroverts, on the other hand, can easily become distressed when they spend too much time alone. Additionally, extroverts can become distressed when they feel bored or disengaged. While a lack of variety in activities and/or an empty schedule may seem ideal to an introvert, it can feel incredibly stressful for extroverts.”
Take, for example, a three-day-long convention filled with mixers, speaking engagements and plenty of opportunities for networking. By the end of the first day, an introvert may already start to feel overwhelmed, especially as they start to look ahead and realize there won’t be very many opportunities for them to get away and recharge. However, the extrovert may effortlessly power through the three days. At the end of the convention, the extrovert may walk away feeling energized and empowered by the many new connections they’ve just made, almost feeling like they went on a bit of a vacation, whereas the introvert may walk away feeling a bit out of sorts and welcoming some alone time, even if they really enjoyed the convention and making some new connections.
How the Personalities Handle Stress
So that leads us into how the two personalities handle stress.
For an introvert, not having the appropriate outlets to step away and recharge can make a stressful situation even more stressful. Imagine going on a long road trip but not being allowed to pull over every once in a while to take a break, stretch your legs, go to the bathroom or eat. That could make an otherwise fun trip pretty stressful, right? The car could begin to feel suffocating, and you may retreat from engaging with your car mates, even snapping at them out of frustration.
“Since Introverts recharge and recover in calm and less stimulating environments, these personalities may find it necessary to be intentional in planning their recharge time,” Graves explains. “The social nature of our society can be challenging for introverts, making it important for introverts to dedicate time to engaging in activities that will promote their own wellbeing.”
For introverts feeling stressed at work, Graves suggests blocking off your calendar for independent focus time.
As for extroverts, they may find adequate stress-relief in connecting with others, such as grabbing a coffee with a friend, ringing up a loved one, or even hosting a party.
“Extroverts should spend adequate time in a variety of social settings to feel connected, de-stressed, and engaged,” Graves adds. “As for extroverts feeling stressed at work, collaborating with a colleague may be helpful in de-stressing, as well.”
To Find Balance, Look Within
Graves notes that figuring out how to best recharge during a stressful period really takes understanding what renews you and what does the complete opposite. What activities or interactions are fueling you and which are draining you? That can give you a good clue as to what activities or interactions (or lack thereof) may help you feel restored.
When we consider the convention example again, an introvert may know that these three days will be tough for them, so they may prepare by taking some more alone time ahead of the convention, or even getting there a day early to settle into their hotel room and get familiar with their surroundings. They may also look ahead at the schedule of events and identify pockets of time in which they can bow out and get away for a bit, or events they don’t need to attend at all. If something is not mandatory, look for meaningful events that will add value or events that sound exciting to you. Then plan for some quiet time when you get back home, letting your friends and loved ones know you just need some time to recharge from your trip before getting together.
Outlining what balance looks like for your personality will help in planning and navigating your tasks, social responsibilities, and rest and recovery.