It's been a while since I've written a blog post, or felt very social in general, but here I am again. My life became quite busy over the past year, with the start of another nursing school semester, so I made a decision to cut back on my social life. I always thought I had the personality type of an extrovert.. outgoing, enthusiastic, always felt I needed to be the life of the party, and never settling in my comfort zone. However, as I got into the thick of nursing school, with all-nighters, rigorous testing, and early-morning clinicals, I began to have a conflict with my own perception of myself.
The stress of nursing school was often overwhelming and constantly brought me to near breaking points. These moments of crisis pressured me to re-evaluate my values and priorities. I started to question if I really wanted to be an extrovert. That label no longer seemed to fit. I simply did not have the energy or time in my schedule to be that person anymore. Instead, I spent the majority of my time studying, purposefully working myself overtime, staying home from events, declining invites, binge watching Grey's on my weekends, and happily cooking dinner for one, night after night. I felt so much more focused and it wasn't long until I realized the lifestyle of an introvert was growing on me. It was secure, comfortable, and productive. With less social distractions and pressures in my life, I really got to know myself better. I explored interests I had not given the proper time to, developed habits and hobbies that were beneficial to my life, and really stopped caring what anyone else would think about it. In a sense, it was freeing. Impressing other people was last on my priority list and embracing a new side of my personality felt like exponential growth.
Fast forward a few months, and the social withdrawal became a little more dramatic than I had planned. I would choose to do activities on my own, rather than with other people, 90% of the time. It got to a point where going to social events caused me so much stress, I would often cancel last minute just so I could stay home in my comfort zone. I despised group projects in school and always volunteered to be the random person who wanted to work alone. I assumed my peers thought I was unfriendly, but in reality, I was afraid to talk. I assumed it was just a phase in my life, due to the stress I was under, and patiently waited for it to pass. However, it only got worse. I would get nervous passing a stranger in a hallway, nervous driving, nervous making eye contact with anyone, nervous posting anything on social media, and nervous to call friends and family. I realized I might need to speak with a professional, and made an appointment with a mental health provider.
I learned I was suffering from anxiety, and it was mostly likely a product of my environment. I was told it could improve by making life changes that decrease stress, and this made me hopeful. I couldn't change the fact that I was in school, but I could adapt healthy practices that decreased the pressure I was under. I never like using medication as a first resort for things I believe I can heal on my own (I am as independent and stubborn as it gets), so I started the alternative healing process.
I stopped working at my night serving job that made me unhappy on a daily basis and started a new Airbnb staging job that I absolutely love, where I work on my own, at my own pace, and no one yells at me over a soda refill. I changed my workout plan from working out in a tiny 4-wall apartment gym every night to going outside in nature and hiking a different state park twice a week. I took my skincare rituals much more seriously and truly dedicated time to nurturing my body. I edited and organized my house and closet once a month, and got rid of unused clutter that I did not need in my environment. I also edited friends and relationships that were unhealthy and adding more stress to my life than peace. These changes were incredibly successful at boosting my morale and overall quality of life. I can't say that the anxiety disappears that easily, but it is amazing what a few changes can do for it.
I am still in a period of limbo, where I am unsure of what exactly my personality type is, but I have accepted that this is ok. We go through phases of life that changes who we are, and it is our job to adjust and embrace ourselves and what we have been through. Hard times may have made us harder, but it is very important to not be tough on ourselves because we may have "lost" what we used to be. We never really lose pieces of our personality, it just becomes increasingly layered over time, and these different layers rise up and fall back when they need to. Your layers are what make you whole, so love and cherish every one of them through the changes.