How Different Personality Types May Adapt to Life After COVID-19

man in public thinking about sitting on the couch at home

Verywell / Bailey Mariner

While many people feel excitement and relief about getting vaccinated and returning to "normal life," not everyone feels the same elation about reverting back to previous patterns. Depending on your personality type, you might either be eager to jump back into things or you might be dreading the transition. 

Post-pandemic life won’t look the same for everybody. Efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 affected nearly every aspect of day-to-day life for people all over the world. Recovering from the upheaval that these changes created has the potential to be a difficult process as well.

Different Personality Types

Personality traits can play a role in both health behaviors and overall well-being. In particular, people have noted that those who tend to be either extroverts or introverts had different ways of managing during the pandemic.

Initially popularized by the psychiatrist Carl Jung, the spectrum of introversion and extraversion represents one of the key dimensions of personality described by the Big 5 theory of personality

According to this theory, there are five broad traits that make up basic personality, which are:

Some people are high in these traits, some low, and others are somewhere in the middle. It is your unique combination of traits, this theory suggests, that makes you who you are.

In order to understand how returning to normal routines might affect people with different personality types, it can be helpful to look at what researchers have found about how personality impacted coping during the pandemic.

Personality and Well-Being

Research has found that personality traits can play a role not only in overall mental health but also in people's ability to cope with stressful or traumatic events. For example, studies have shown that personality played a role in how people adjusted and coped with the changes brought on by the pandemic. 

In one study, students who were high in the personality traits of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extroversion (also often spelled extraversion) and low on neuroticism were found to be more likely to have better moods and less stress. They were also more likely to participate in health-promoting activities.

As the pandemic progressed, however, the researchers found that extroverts experienced greater decreases in their mood while introverts actually experienced slight increases.

Adapting After COVID-19

How might people with different personality types fare as they adjust to post-COVID life? Are there special concerns that people with these personality types should consider? 

Extroverts

How might extroverts cope with the transition back after the pandemic? Extroverts tend to thrive in social situations and gain energy from being around and interacting with others.

Social distancing guidelines meant that many extroverts were cut off from other people, which was a real challenge for many. 

A study published in the journal American Psychologist found that people who were high in extroversion were also the least likely to comply with shelter-in-place orders during the pandemic.

Research suggests that extroversion is typically linked to better coping skills in general. People with this personality trait often have higher levels of resilience and less stress.

Aspects of the pandemic that reduced contact with other people such as social distancing and lockdowns were perhaps the most taxing for people who thrive in social situations.

Because of this, people who have extroverted personalities may find the return to their pre-pandemic routines a relief. This is particularly true if this return to normalcy is accompanied by increased contact with friends, family, co-workers, and other people.

Introverts

Unlike extroverts, introverts tend to feel drained by social interaction. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like being around people—it just means that they need time to recharge after spending time in social settings.

Because many introverts had an easier time coping with social distancing and working from home, the return to the normal patterns of daily life may be more of a challenge for people who tend to thrive on solitude.

For some introverts, the year of the pandemic was a time of personal exploration and freedom from the typical social pressures of work life. 

One study found that some people actually thrived amidst lockdowns because of reasons such as reduced commute times, more time with immediate family, and increased online communication.

While introverts are sometimes misunderstood as being shy, aloof, or socially anxious, they do enjoy the company of others—as long as they have plenty of time to recharge. As the pandemic wore on, even some of the most introverted personalities found themselves craving social connections at times. But this may not mean that they are looking forward to a full re-entry into a crowded social calendar.

For many, going back to office life can mean the return of activities that leave them feeling drained and exhausted such as making small talk, attending meetings, and lack of privacy. The challenge for many people is figuring out how to get back to normal without completely sacrificing the peace and slower pace of life that they discovered over the course of the year.

What some people have recognized is that their former lives were often centered around activities that were out of step with their introverted personalities. For others, the pandemic has led to increased self-awareness and the realization that they have no desire to return to their pre-pandemic way of life.

Ambiverts

Ambiverts are those whose personality lies somewhere right in the middle of the extroversion/introversion spectrum. People with this personality type have characteristics of both personality types and are sometimes referred to as "outgoing introverts."

People with ambivert personalities enjoy being alone, but can ramp up their social behavior in situations that call for it. They enjoy busy social situations or parties, but may need a break once in a while to recalibrate and recharge.

Like extroverts, ambiverts may find the return to post-COVID life easier to deal with. While they may have dealt better with aspects of quarantine than many extroverts, they likely miss many aspects of their pre-pandemic routines.

Getting back into the swing of things means that many will have more opportunities for the aspects of their social and work lives that they enjoy, including spending more time with other people outside of the home.

What to Expect

No matter what personality type you have, there are a number of things that you are probably looking forward to as the pandemic eases and more people get vaccinated including:

  • Visiting friends and family
  • Traveling
  • Going back to work
  • Going back to school
  • Dining in restaurants
  • Seeing a movie in a theater
  • Attending music festivals and concerts
  • Shopping in brick-and-mortar stores
  • Attending sporting events

Of course, it is still important to follow the safety guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even after being vaccinated.

When anticipating the return of these activities, people may still experience a sense of trepidation or anxiety. Common concerns include:

  • Fear of becoming ill: Even as more people are vaccinated, some worry that this might lead to complacency and a resurgence of illness.
  • Anxiety about getting reaccustomed to society: People who have had little contact with others outside the home over the past year may struggle to get reacclimated to socializing with coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers. Even everyday activities like driving to work, scheduling appointments, or being invited to social events can create feelings of anxiety.
  • Losing positive changes that were gained: Those who feel that they have grown or discovered things about themselves over the past year may fear that “getting back to normal” means losing sight of these positive changes.

Challenges to Consider

The question of how people and society may change in the wake of the pandemic remains to be answered.  Challenges that people may have to face as society reopens include:

  • A transformed workplace: Because of social distancing policies, the world of work has dramatically shifted. Many of the questions people may have had about whether remote work would affect motivation or productivity have been answered. Workers and employers are now faced with questions about telework practices and how much flexibility will exist in a post-pandemic world. While not everyone is able to work from home, those who can might be faced with the challenge of deciding if and when they will return to the office.
  • Safety: Personality may also play a role in how people feel about safety precautions that remain in place as people begin to return to their pre-pandemic activities. While some people are eager to rejoin their co-workers face to face, they may still worry about the health risks even as many people have had the vaccine or are continuing to use sanitation, masking, and physical distancing. Research suggested that extroverts were less likely than introverts to follow certain health precautions during the pandemic, so such patterns may persist going forward.
  • Loneliness: Even before the pandemic struck, a substantial percentage of adults in the U.S. struggled with feelings of loneliness. As many non-essential workers return to working in an office, figuring out how to reconnect with co-workers or build new connections can present a challenge for many people. Extroverts and ambiverts may find it easier to rebuild these social connections. Introverts, on the other hand, may find this much more difficult.
  • General stress: As society reopens, many people may grapple with how to balance new challenges brought on by the pandemic alongside the return to work and the rhythms of daily life. For some people, the home has become a haven of safety even in the face of health, economic, social, and family stress. Exiting that bubble can create apprehension and new stresses.

Mental health and well-being are also serious concerns going forward. According to one report released by CDC, nearly 41% of American adults struggled with mental health or substance use during the pandemic. Symptoms of depression, anxiety, and trauma- or stressor-related disorders were commonly reported.

How to Cope

The reality is that getting back to normal may take some time and things may never completely be exactly what they were before the pandemic. As you look at this challenge, it is important to find ways to ease yourself back into society in a way that supports your needs. 

Practice Self-Care

No matter what your personality type, it is important to take care of yourself as you face new challenges going forward. Taking time for yourself, getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, and practicing relaxation strategies can help. Introverts may find that carving out periods of time to be alone can help ease the stress related to increased socializing.

Lean On Your Coping Skills

Even as the pandemic created stress, it also led people to develop and build new coping skills and increase resilience. As you deal with different challenges going forward, consider some of the things that helped you manage your stress and anxiety over the past year. Employing some of those same techniques in other situations can be helpful. 

Find a Balance

Because of the changes in the workplace, you may be able to talk to your employer about incorporating more telework into your schedule in the future. For many introverts, this can be a great way to maintain some of the things they preferred about working from home while still participating in face-to-face work.

Of course, not everyone has the option to work from home, change jobs, launch their own business, or find some other way to maintain their work from home lifestyle. And it’s important to remember that such choices can come with stress and adjustment periods on their own.

The decision to stick to telecommuting may lead to further upheaval and more life changes, so it is important to weigh the potential costs and benefits before you make such a choice.

Talk to Other People

It's important to remember that you aren't alone in this experience. While everyone's experiences and feelings may be a little different, other people around you are going through many of the same things that you are.

Having social support and talking about these struggles with friends and family members can be a way to gain a sense of solidarity.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique that involves focusing on the present moment. It can help you let go of worries about the past and anxieties about the future and find a way to be present in the moment.

As you move forward, practice these mindfulness skills and pay attention to where you focus your energies and attentions.

Go Slow

If the thought of returning to normal is making you anxious, you may find that gradually exposing yourself to old routines may help ease you into it. This process is often used as part of exposure therapy to help people reduce fear and anxiety in the face of a phobic object.

By taking it slowly and progressively increasing your exposure to the things you used to do, you may find that you're less anxious.

Don't be afraid to talk to a mental health professional about your concerns about returning to normal life. The option of online therapy have become increasingly vital over the course of the past year and there are many online therapy tools and resources where you can find help.

A Word From Verywell

While personality traits have been shown to be associated with different health outcomes, including things like wellness and coping, it is important to remember that none of these traits are necessarily good or bad. However, understanding the impact they may have on how to adapt to life after COVID-19 can help you adjust to the new normal.

While the pandemic is likely to have effects that will be felt for years to come, it is important to remember that people are incredibly adept at finding ways to adapt and thrive.

Anxiety and trepidation about these changes are normal and your unique worries likely depend on both your personality, your support system, and other aspects of your life. 

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