Some little thing you could do that would help you bounce back in a big way from a rough patch in your life?
Occasionally, there is.
Here are a couple stories from my private practice (names and identifying details have been changed) of people who changed one small thing in their lives that ended up making a big difference in how they felt.
See if you can spot what they did.
Dealing with physical and emotional pain
Celeste came for counseling because she had an injury she was dealing with that arrived out of the blue. One day she was fine and the next she was in excruciating pain from a back problem.
She had seen several doctors and was receiving physical therapy that had decreased the pain, yet she was still very depressed.
She wept as she told me her story about the injury, her frustration with the medical indecision about how best to deal with it, and the disruption it brought to her life including a lengthy absence from work.
She was quite depressed – a very different experience for this normally vivacious young woman.
After a long conversation, I made a suggestion to Celeste. She looked at me with hope and said, “I think you’re right. I’ll try that.”
The following week, Celeste arrived for her appointment with a smile on her face.
“I’m feeling much better!” she said. “I even went back to work this week.”
At the end of the session, Celeste said her depression had lifted to the extent that she was ready to come in for therapy every other week rather than weekly.
What do you think I suggested to Celeste? Was it just going back to work that helped her feel better?
Let’s look at another story.
“A snowball rolling downhill”
Bill sought counseling because he, too, felt depressed.
He was tired all the time yet had difficulty sleeping. He was short-tempered with his wife and kids – a behavior unlike this very loving middle-aged man.
Bill described his life as “a snowball rolling downhill of people, work, family, classes . . . it just seems like everything is picking up speed and getting bigger and bigger. I feel out of control.”
He gave me some details.
His job in sales involved meeting with people on a daily basis and much conversation.
“I really love sales,” Bill said. “Even though I’m actually shy, I do love to talk! But I still feel drained when I get home.”
He also loved his family very much. But the kids were all in different activities which involved time to support each child in their activity as well as interacting with the other parents of kids in the same event.
Finally, his wife really enjoyed taking classes in the community and loved to have Bill participate with her. However, the classes were two nights per week and, while Bill also liked the classes, he ended up feeling exhausted afterwards.
Eventually, I made a suggestion to Bill that was similar to the one I had given Celeste.
Bill’s response was, “Really? I didn’t even think about that since I’m in sales. Maybe you’re right . . . I’m going to try that.”
At our next session, Bill said, “I made some changes and I’m starting to feel better already. Who knew such a little thing could make such a difference?”
What changes do you think Bill made?
Energy drain and depression
Did you figure it out?
Celeste and Bill were both experiencing one key thing that was contributing to their depression: energy drain.
Depression itself can be draining, but both Celeste and Bill were unaware of a particular aspect of themselves that added to the sinking of their emotional and physical vitality.
Celeste is an extravert and Bill is an introvert.
Before we go any further, we should define these terms because their popular definitions are a bit different than the actual experience of them.
Both have to do with where we get our energy. Does it come from the outside world or the inside world?
Extraversion is about relating to things outside of us. People who are extraverted recharge their emotional batteries by being around other people.
Introversion is about being attuned to what’s going on inside of us. People who are introverted recharge their emotional batteries by being by themselves.
While Celeste’s injury was frightening, it only partially created her experience of depression. The more we talked, the more we both discovered her extraverted nature.
Since her injury had her spending a lot of time home alone, Celeste’s energy was on a constant drain cycle.
My suggestion to her? Make sure you spend some time around other people on a daily basis.
At first, Celeste started taking walks with friends.
This was so helpful, she decided she would try to return to work part-time, even if only to be around the energetic and outward-thought-processing of her colleagues in the marketing department.
She loved being back so much she returned to full-time work within a few days after having a discussion with her boss about her physical limitations.
For Bill, his energy was drained by being around people too much.
Between his sales job, activities with his kids, and classes he took with his wife, his energy was being quickly sucked out of him.
The basic problem for Bill was that he didn’t have any time to himself to recharge his emotional batteries. He ran from place to place, activity to activity, always filled with people that he had to interact with.
My suggestion to Bill? Make sure you carve out some time just for yourself every day to get recharged.
Bill immediately acted on my suggestion. He spoke to his wife, who was more than supportive of his new insight, and dropped one of the classes he was taking with her.
During the time that he would have been at class, he spent time by himself in his study at home, reading or listening to music.
Instead of watching television with the family until it was time for bed, Bill explained to them that he needed 30 minutes to wind down before he went to sleep and excused himself from watching the last half-hour sitcom with them.
Even his kids told Bill that it made sense to them that he needed some time to himself. One of the kids decided to do the same thing and she, too, went to her room while the others watched that last show.
Both Bill and Celeste immediately felt their depression decrease as their energy returned to them. There were still other things to work on, but they found that this one insight was enough to help them start bouncing back almost immediately.
You and your energy
What about you?
Where do you get your energy?
What drains you?
Take a quick look below to see if you prefer extraversion or introversion.
People who prefer extraversion are focused on the outer world of people and events.
Ask yourself: Do I . . .
- feel energized from being around people?
- feel bored or depressed or restless if I’m alone for too long?
- think out loud and enjoy bouncing ideas off of other people?
- enjoy meeting new people and learning about them?
- tend to act or speak before I think?
- like to work on a team?
- find it hard to concentrate if I have to work from home?
- feel at ease in social settings?
- take the initiative to introduce people who don’t know each other at a party?
People who prefer introversion are focused on the inner world of thoughts, feelings, and reflections.
Ask yourself: Do I . . .
- feel energized from spending time by myself?
- feel drained and tired after interacting with people (especially people I don’t know?)
- need time to gather my thoughts and process ideas before speaking?
- prefer to interact with people I know (rather than meet new people?)
- reflect and think before taking action? (Most of the time!)
- prefer to work on projects by myself or, if I’m on a team, prefer a lot of autonomy?
- find it hard to concentrate in a busy office?
- feel uncomfortable or a little strained in social settings?
- prefer to stay to myself rather than introduce people who don’t know each other at a party?
There is not really a formula here; if you find yourself nodding in response to one set of questions more than the other, it’s likely you prefer that type of energy and interaction with the world.
Okay . . . now what?
What do you do now that you know if you’re extraverted or introverted?
Much like the suggestions I gave Celeste and Bill, the important question to remember when you’re in a tough spot is:
How can I get my energy back? (Or, create more energy.)
If you’re someone who prefers extraversion, try to be with people at least once each day.
For some people, this may involve just being in a place where people are, not necessarily with people you know.
For example, I often take my extraverted self down to my favorite restaurant where everyone knows my name. I may not have a conversation with anyone, but just being in a space with other people and feeling their energy often perks me out of my doldrums.
But the best solution is to be with people you know who you can talk to and relate with.
If you’re in a situation where you need to solve a problem, get together with friends or family and talk it out.
Talk it out loud.
That’s how extraverts roll: they bounce ideas off of each other and think out loud.
It will help you to create new ideas, get energized, and feel connected to other people – all things most extraverts want!
If you’re someone who prefers introversion, make sure to get enough time to yourself each day.
This can be hard if you have a family or roommates or long work hours.
But it’s essential for your peace of mind and your energy level to get even a few minutes at a time alone.
Follow Bill’s example and explain to loved ones that you need time to unwind and rejuvenate and, for you, that time needs to be by yourself. You’ll have plenty of other time to be with them!
If you’re in a situation where you have a problem that needs to be solved, create some long stretches of time where you can process the problem and possible solutions by yourself. Then, get together with trusted family and friends and have them hear your ideas.
Remember that you tend to process ideas quietly and internally rather than externally like a boisterous extravert. But it’s still important that you get feedback on your thoughts.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss
Let’s celebrate You! Whether you’re an extravert or an introvert, be proud of your preference!
And remember that honoring your extraversion or introversion can help you bounce back sooner than you thought!
As always, I’m interested in your feedback about this topic! Let me hear it in the comments below – do you think you’re an extravert or introvert? How does that impact your life?
Interested in learning more about yourself and your personality preferences? I’m a Certified Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Practitioner – contact me to take the assessment and get a professional consultation by yours truly!