Could the key to feeling re-energised be down to personality traits? A top psychologist reveals all & gives us the tips & tricks to help you unwind & bounce back feeling better than ever

Post Covid-19, many of us are feeling mentally, physically and emotionally drained. As a result, never has indulging in some self-care been more necessary. The need to take some time out and recharge is real. But what charges one person’s batteries won’t necessarily work for someone else. We might assume that some of us need quiet and calm to unwind, while others need to ‘let it all out’ via social activities. Here, we look at how to recharge, depending on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert.

To help, we speak to Owen O’Kane, a psychotherapist, Sunday Times bestselling author, TEDx speaker and former NHS Mental Health lead, who has all the info when it comes to recharging our batteries based on these two personality traits. 

Introverts vs extroverts: what’s the deal?

We usually think of introverts as someone quiet and chill – perhaps they’re a bit of a wallflower. Extroverts? Well they’re the life and soul of the party, always outgoing and sociable. However, according to Owen, the discrepancies between the two aren't so black and white. 

"I’m not a huge fan of labels as I think they can often lead to inaccurate assumptions or representations of people," explains Owen. "This is definitely the case with introverts and extroverts. In my view, it’s more helpful to think of people as having introverted or extroverted traits, rather than defining them diagnostically. When I use the terms introvert or extrovert, it’s in the context of a personality trait not as a definitive label of an individual."

Why, then, is it useful to realign our thoughts on what makes an introvert or extrovert?

"Most people aren’t exclusively introverted or extroverted," says Owen. "It’s normal that we fluctuate between states, often dependent on a host of other variables that occur in life. For example, someone might display more introverted traits when at school, but as an adult move towards more extrovert traits when they start a job or find a partner. There's also some prejudice favouring extroverts as superior as they are often associated with confidence, action and outgoing personalities. However, the power of introverts cannot be ignored, and they have an equal ability to thrive in life." 

Does this mean our personalities sit somewhere on a spectrum?

"Essentially, yes," says Owen. "The most helpful way to think about the characteristics of introverts and extroverts is how they might present at certain times in life. It can be argued that someone’s natural personality type may be stronger on one side of the spectrum, but that doesn’t mean it’s fixed." 

Introvert traits are associated with people who: 

• Think and reflect more
• Enjoy time alone
• Recharge without the need for external stimulus
• Think before acting
• Are introspective in nature 

Extrovert traits are associated with people who: 

• Socialise
• Display confidence and ability to communicate well
• Recharge by spending time with others
• Are outgoing
• Are action-oriented

So, with such variances in personality types, how should both groups recharge? 

"You may be surprised that I’m going to offer the same suggestions for both those with introverted and extroverted personalities," says Owen. "To offer specific prescriptive guidance for an extrovert or introvert  limits the benefits of what someone might need from self-care or recharging. Let’s say if an introvert is feeling a little sad or disconnected, we might feel inclined to tell them to spend time alone to recharge, when realistically this advice isn’t going to be entirely helpful."   

Owen’s top 3 recharging tips for both extroverts & introverts: 

• Whenever you’re feeling worn out or exhausted, stop and ask yourself what it is you need at that time. Regardless of where you are on the introvert or extrovert spectrum, your needs might vary depending on the context. If you want time alone, then listen to that. If you need some external stimulus, then make that happen in a way that works for you.

• Most people in times of stress or exhaustion don’t treat themselves very well. If you notice that you’re being self-critical, replace that with a more compassionate tone. It can make a world of difference.

• Prioritise self-care and have a plan on how you'll implement that in your life regularly. Remember self-care isn’t selfish or indulgent, it’s an essential component of mental wellness, regardless of whether you see yourself as introvert or extrovert.

The takeaway

"It takes all types to make a world. Embrace, accept and celebrate your introvert, extrovert or even ambivert traits. We're all a mix of everything. That’s the joy of being human."

How To Be Your Own Therapist by Owen O’Kane is published in hardback, ebook and audio download on 23 June (HQ, £16.99)