According to my Myers-Briggs test, I’m an extrovert. Yes, I like being around people, yes I crave attention, and yes, I do get most of my productive energy from others.
But I also like being alone. In fact, I’m most comfortable when I’m by myself. And when I’m overwhelmed at work, I’d rather take a walk around the block solo instead of grabbing a coffee and venting.
Does this sound like you? You’re not crazy, you just know what does and doesn’t work for you.
Here are three big signs that you need some “me” time—no matter how social you normally are:
1. You’re Snapping at Others
Did you just snap at a co-worker for playing music too loudly at her desk? Or maybe you gave a harsh critique to a colleague who keeps making the same mistake on her weekly reports.
You already know this—but when you’re overly grouchy with people for minor mistakes, it probably means you need to take a break. A literal one.
Whenever possible, I’d suggest physically walking away and not returning until you’re feeling more level-headed. If there’s still an issue that needs to be resolved (like those report mistakes), apologize first for your sudden outburst and then address it. And if you did snap at someone for no reason, you’re also going to want to make amends quickly.
2. You’re Struggling to Come Up With Good Ideas
When you’re this close to your next big idea, distraction’s the last thing you need. And even if it’s not intentional, your peers are a distraction. Their casual banter next to your desk, their pleas to join them for a coffee run, their “quick” questions—these are all great when you have the time, but when you’re mulling over something important or urgent they’ll only delay the process.
For example, when I have to brainstorm an article for the vague future, sure, I have time to sit down with my colleagues and hash out ideas. But when my piece is due the next day, I log out of Slack, throw on headphones, grab a seat on the couch, and write—sometimes for several hours alone. It’s not anti-social—it’s me doing what needs to get done to do my best possible work.
3. You’re One More Problem Away From Crying at Your Desk
Just as your co-workers can be great stress-relievers—forcing you to take breaks when you’ve been burning energy for hours or listening to you vent about your problems—they can also, unfortunately, add to your stress.
We experience this all the time. When we’re going through our own stuff, someone comes along and throws their issues onto our pile—and while we want to help, we can barely keep ourselves up.
I don’t recommend becoming a hermit every time you’re feeling anxious, but if you’re someone who’s used to latching onto groups when times get tough, you may need to rethink your strategy.
Learning how to work through your stresses on your own is not only empowering, it’s meditative—it forces you to look inward and accept your emotions as is, rather than have to make excuses for them.
Extroverts need alone time just as much as the next person. We weigh ourselves down with stigmas that if we’re not with people, we’re not being ourselves, and that’s just not true.
More importantly, everyone should learn how to thrive on their own—because if we can do this much solo, think about how much we could accomplish together.
Photo of person working alone courtesy of Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images.