How to Show Up — A Guide for Introverts

October 2, 2018

For a self-proclaimed introvert, my schedule tells another story.

Both of my jobs require more than simple passing interactions with humans. Instead, I meet with hundreds of strangers both shopping at lululemon or attending my fitness classes daily. Conversations both surface level and deep, high energy encouragement, and put-yourself-out-there leadership are hourly occurrences. I love what I do, and the fact I get to do it IN HAWAII (I still can’t get over it). But between the work and all the island play, life can get pretty exhausting.

I’ve come a long way in my depression recovery journey, and on most days, my anxiety seems under control. But what many people who haven’t experienced either don’t see is the near-crippling grip mental illness can have on work and even the most simple tasks: getting out of bed, buying groceries, heading into the office, and attending social events big and small — no matter how far into your recovery you are.

Multiply that all by my line of chosen work, and well, I still have my moments.

Whether or not you’ve suffered from depression, mood swings, or generalized anxiety, I am sure you can relate to this — we all have obligations and events in our lives that we lack energy for, or just plain don’t feel like doing. Places we don’t like going to, overwhelming must-dos, workouts we don’t want to do (this deserves a post of its own), and draining social interactions.

Showing up is more than transporting our bodies through spaces and places to be a physical being present in the room. Showing up takes being where our feet are, mind, body, and soul. It takes reeling our minds and our hearts into the here and now rather than remaining in the past on a comfy couch or future when we can return to said comfy couch. It takes energy, energy we don’t always have.

So when the upcoming day seems like a challenge, here are my surefire tips to showing up I’ve put into practice over the years:

Make a Plan & Clear

Give yourself some time to think through whatever it is you’re heading to, whether you’ve been there before or not. How long is the drive? Where is the best parking? Do you need directions? What time should you call your Lyft? These dry details are always good to have ironed out well before you head out. It reduces overall anxiety so you can relax and arrive fresh and on-time, not rushed or stressed.

If it’s a party or gathering, who will be there? What’s the attire? I even have a go-to playlist I crank up when I get ready. Pour yourself a glass of wine and dance around. Remind yourself you’re going to have a good time. 

Once you’ve arrived, bring your full self in the door. At lululemon, we have a practice in place before we step out onto the floor for a shift: clearing. This is an opportunity to get anything out that may be holding you back from being fully present: stress from traffic, a fight with a significant other, exciting news, or just plain feeling down. Get it out over the phone to a trusted friend or coworker and move forward, even if only for the next few hours.

Grab a Buddy

Though I’ve pushed myself to get comfortable heading to parties, events and gatherings solo, it is definitely easier with a friend in tow or someone to look out for once I arrive — especially if my energy is lacking and even the mere thought of small talk drains me.

If it’s one of those days I need an extra kick to be fully present at work, grabbing coffee with a friend or coworker before heading in to the store or studio gets me into a more relaxed and cheerful others-centered mindset. Carpooling to errands, work, church, and functions is my favorite — it allows me to get in some quality time while being a bit nicer the environment. Traffic ain’t so bad with a pal in the passenger seat.

And sheesh — don’t let me get started on how impactful gym buddies can be — accountability at its finest. Sign up for a fitness class after work or make plans to meet and burn out booty day together.

Take a Breather

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, pause. Breathe. You’re here, you made it! This is a win. One of the biggest takeaways I received from therapy is this: we don’t often slow down enough to recognize our recovery accomplishments. While to an outsider driving to work or attending a birthday party may seem trivial, when you’re having a down-swing and rolling out of bed is hard enough, actually stepping out into the world is one huge victory.

Take a deep breath, give yourself a pat on the back for how far you’ve come. Remain open to what you may learn today, and what little encounters can bring and spread joy.

Have an Exit Strategy

This tip doesn’t necessarily mean plot out your escape route or count down the minutes until your shift is up on hard days. Just knowing you’ve set aside some TLC time for yourself when you get back home may be enough to keep you present for now. Whether it’s a good book and early bedtime (my fave), relaxing in an Epsom salt bath, cooking dinner with your significant other or snuggling with the pups, make sure self-care and simple pleasures are part of your routine.

If you’re at a party, remember you’re not obligated to stay the whole time. Enjoy yourself, tear up the dance floor with your friends, sip a margarita. When you’re nearing your wall, call a ride or say your goodbyes and thank you’s. Overwhelmed or pressured to stay? Sometimes a good ol’ Irish goodbye and text farewell will do. I seem to have perfected mine.

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