How can you combat introvert burnout—prevent it, even? The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being is a practical tool you can use. Every day.
Your brain is like the finance department of a big organization.
“Just as a large company has a financial office that parses its revenues and expenses to develop budgets for various accounts, you, too, have a ‘financial office’—your brain,” says Lisa Feldman Barrett, a neuroscientist and distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University in Boston.
That busy brain of yours has to manage the gains and, especially, the outlays for all the accounts that make up your life—physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual.
The endless work your brain is doing isn’t a reaction to circumstances as they happen, Barrett stresses.
In reality, research shows, your brain is constantly predicting what it will be dealing with in the immediate future so that, as Barrett puts it, your body’s resources “will meet the need before it arises.”
The technical term for this anticipatory brain regulation process is allostasis. And it’s at the heart of the practical life management metaphor that Barrett introduces in her 2018 book, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain.
Manage Your Body Budget Wisely
You’ve got a body budget, Barrett argues.
And while you can operate your body budget in the red temporarily, as we all have to at times, you ultimately need to balance it to be happy and healthy in life.
That means taking obvious but too frequently ignored advice like “eat right” and “sleep enough” and “exercise” seriously, Barrett says.
If you’re an introvert, it also means becoming the best budget manager possible for your brain’s introvert-related accounts so that you can prevent, or at least limit, introvert burnout.
How can you do that?
Consider using the practical daily life management tool I’ve developed: The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being:
A Way to Fight Introvert Burnout
Think for a moment about what you experience when you’re over-drafted as an introvert—when the introvert-related expenses of your body budget are far exceeding your introvert-related income.
In these situations, you’re probably not getting enough time to, and for, yourself.
You have little or no time to think.
You feel like you’re being pulled in a thousand directions at once.
You’re involved in too many trivial activities, and too few meaningful ones.
These are all key symptoms of introvert burnout.
You can address them—and nudge your body budget back into the black—by purposefully pursuing their opposites—i.e., The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being:
Key introvert burnout question: Am I getting enough quiet time alone to decompress and recharge my batteries?
You’ll want to examine this question in two practical respects:
Alone time. You need to be alone, however you define the concept, for at least a little while each day. Are you getting your alone time consistently? If not, what can you do to get it?
Quiet time. Even five minutes of pure quiet can do wonders for your introverted psyche. Are you getting quiet time consistently? If not, what can you do to get it?
Enough Reflection Time?
Key introvert burnout question: Am I getting the opportunity to think?
Look at this question from three perspectives:
Thinking beforehand. When you can think things through before something in your life takes place, you’ll feel more prepared. That will lower your stress and boost your performance. Are you getting time to think about the important things in your life before they happen? If not, what can you do to get this time?
Thinking during. When you have room to think about what’s going on right in the moment, in real time, you can process your thoughts and feelings—briefly, at least—before having to react. Are you getting enough time to think about the important things in your life while they’re happening? If not, what can you do to get this time?
Thinking afterward. When you have time to think about what’s already happened in your life, you can reflect upon it in depth, pinpoint what you’ve learned, and decide what changes you want to make in similar situations in the future. Are you getting time to think about the important things in your life after they’ve happened? If not, what can you do to get this time?
Key introvert burnout question: Am I getting the chance to mindfully focus my energy?
Take two critical concepts into account as you ponder this question:
Handling one thing at a time. When you can focus on one thing at a time, you prevent the draining and anxiety-producing feeling of being spread too thin. Are you getting time to focus on one person, one activity, one responsibility, one set of deadlines and pressures at a time before having to move on immediately to the next? If not, what can you do to get this time?
Working without interruption. When you can get yourself into that undistracted place known as “The Zone” or “flow,” the world around you disappears temporarily and you produce some of your best work. Are you getting time to work without being interrupted constantly? If not, what can you do to get this time?
Key introvert burnout question: Am I getting the depth I crave in life?
There are two key ideas to be aware of when it comes to depth:
Depth in your relationships. When you can go beyond surface-level interactions with other people in your life, you build trusting, meaningful relationships that justify the investment of your limited time and energy. Are you getting time to build, and maintain, deep relationships? If not, what can you do to get this time?
Depth in your activities. When you can really sink your teeth into something you’re doing, you get the satisfaction of developing expertise vs. mere working knowledge. Are you getting time to pursue activities passionately, in the depth you seek? If not, what can you do to get this time?
You Can Beat Introvert Burnout
Your job, then, is to maximize your income and minimize your expenses within each of the four pillar areas.
That way, you’ll consistently be in the positive in your introverted bank account—a prevention strategy for introvert burnout if there ever was one.