Coping During COVID-19: An extroverted empath’s thoughts

I cry during sad movies and books. I am quite sure I have never NOT cried during an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I have been known to cry during commercials. I cry when I am getting reprimanded or when I am scared or stressed. I cry when fighting with a loved one. I am pretty laid back, but emotions can easily get the better of me. I love deeply and without abandon, which leaves me always open to getting hurt. I am fiercely faithful and loyal, and I often give to my own detriment. I am needy of my friends and family, but also love to be the one they lean on in their times of crisis. I always want to talk about it. I hate space and I SUCK at giving it. Social distancing is not a concept I would normally embrace.

Right now, in this global pandemic that is upon us, I am somewhat isolated from the main epicenters. (I live on an actual island). I am healthy. I am relatively young with no health conditions. My employer immediately took precautions and limited the number of people in the building. Crucially, I will continue to be paid.

Therefore, my level of panic, anxiety and tears in the past 24 hours is not attributed to a fear of my own personal health, safety or security. I keep crying and I don’t really know why, so I am processing that now.

I read an interesting article yesterday that was talking about the release of a book written by Greta Thunberg and her family. In it, they apparently share that young Greta saw a video on the environment at school. And while most of her classmates could watch it and separate themselves from it, she became obsessed. Her fear was debilitating her and effecting her health. She was able to take that and with the support of her family turn that into action. I really related to this.

I did not create the idea of this image, but since I have no idea what it was called, my Google searches came up empty. I drew the below. Graphic designers, rest easy. Your job is safe from me.


The idea is that at the center of our own universe is our self. The next two are where our arms and our concerns reach first to our immediate family and loved ones and then to our community. We exist in multiple communities, so really that should be a whole bunch of rings: groups of friends, neighborhood, religious group as a whole, gender, place of worship, work, the bar we hang out at, the gym we go to, school, etc.  Finally is the world at large and all humanity. There is a particular practice of Buddhist meditation, often called “loving kindness,” that asks you to think about these spheres as you meditate.

Some people exist only in the middle, some extend into the next two rings and some feel compassion and empathy all the way to the outside. Who knows what causes this and I am not in anyway trying to say any one person is better than the other. All I know is that the empaths who feel for the wider circle often struggle emotionally and can feel overwhelmed by the feeling pf powerlessness.

I know this because that is me.

Right now, I am trying to come to grips about why I am so scared when I am not worried for myself and I am not particularly hung up on my family, but I am scared to the point of tears and panicky feelings for the wider community and global impact of this virus.

I am writing this to cope myself, but also in the hopes that people who feel the same way and read this will know how very not alone they are, and for those around people like us, you will know how different people deal with crises differently. This is only one perspective and it is personal, rather than scientific.

On the Meyers Briggs Scale I’m an ENFP: the Campaigner, which is one of the Diplomats, which is very appropriate. I am 80%  Extroverted (as opposed to introverted),  60% Intuitive (as opposed to observant), 90% Feeling (as opposed to Thinking) and 60% Prospecting (as opposed to judging). I am split down the middle on the last point: Turbulent vs Assertive.

This means that I tend to be somewhat impulsive in my decision making; I need little down time; I generally prefer lots of stimulus; I go with my gut and my heart rather than my brain; I am emotional; I have a broad world view; I feel for others.

Campaigners tend to gravitate towards the arts. I started out life as an actor. They also work in service and the human sciences. I worked for years in food service and non-profit plus four years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. They also work in diplomacy. No comment.

I also love horoscopes. I’m an Aquarian, which is basically astrology speak for ENFP. We tend to be open-minded, humanitarian creative, impulsive, emotional, inconsistent.

In the face of a global pandemic where isolation is the only way to curb the devastation, this means that I am a complete emotional wreck.

I am wreck for two reasons.

  1. At the center of the bulls eye is me. And I am alone. I live alone and after tomorrow, will be in my apartment for the next couple of weeks. I don’t love my job, but I very much enjoy the people with whom I  work, and we work in a lively open plan. The work I do may not immediately and directly save lives, but I have the ability to change lives, and I derive great joy from those moments of relief, happiness and gratitude I enjoy from my clients. I know that I am impacting their lives for the better most of the time, and that makes me able to deal with the less savory elements of my job. In the first couple months of this job, the few bad scenarios overwhelmed the good, and I found myself crying daily, but I have managed to now let the good outweigh the bad and I sleep better for it. Now, our services are reduced to practically nothing, and we employees are taking turns holding down the very empty fort. My turn won’t come up again for about two weeks after tomorrow.This fills me with dread.Sure I can write, do yoga, make yoga videos, work on my photo albums, read, watch tv, talk to people on the phone, waste time on instagram, read the paper, exercise, cook, bake, clean, do laundry, do house projects…I can find activities to do. I don’t sit still especially well, so that is a must. I am hoping to jump in my jeep and do some exploring in the parts less traveled.The thing is, I don’t actually mind alone time, but I like to choose when I get it. Right now, it is about to be imposed upon me. The government here is not mandating a total shutdown and shelter in place, but my yoga classes are canceled, book club is canceled, parties are canceled. We have been told to stay at home as much as possible. That is daunting for someone like me who loves dinner with friends, drinks on a Friday night, the beach on a Saturday, teaching and taking yoga, engaging in lively conversation and laughter. These are all ways that my extrovert self gets charged.So what I am left alone with are my thoughts. Terrifying.
  2. Enter the “Intuitive Feeler” who exists in the outer limits of the ring. I am devastated by what this could mean for the world. I know in my heart that even if no one in my family gets sick, I feel greatly for the family members of the 100 who have already died and the more that will come. I feel for the mothers whose kids who have compromised immune system. I feel for the people whose parents are even more isolated now that they cannot visit them in their assisted living facility. I feel for the small business owners who can’t pay their employees and may lose everything. I am stressed about the masses in countries with fewer resources, who live in close quarters with minimal sanitation. There is nothing I can do and that feeling of helplessness makes me scared.

I have a salary right now. This is new for me. I started this job 15 months ago. Prior to that I was temping and teaching  yoga. The places I taught yoga have all suspended classes now. If I was there, 50% of my income would be gone. As companies scale back, expensive temps are easily disposed of and when I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. I had only the most catastrophic health insurance that I paid for, so I would have been worried about care if I got sick. I am single with no kids, so I always know that I will be okay. I had a tiny bit saved then, and I have a tiny bit more now so I will be fine.

I worry for others.

I am so worried for all those that won’t be ok financially. I worry about the kids not getting their free breakfasts and lunches. I worry about people not being able to keep the heat on or pay their rent. I worry about shelters being overwhelmed. I worry for the close quarters of shelters with an at-risk population. I worry about undocumented immigrants afraid to seek health services. I worry about all those reliant on gig and part-time work. Basically, I worry and there is little I can do about it. Once again, helplessness leaves me feeling anxious.

I already give monthly to five different charitable organizations, and one of them is the DC area food bank. I already will continue to pay the woman who cleans my apartment bi-weekly even though she will be able to come clean. I am going to buy supplies, but not overstock to the point of depriving others That doesn’t feel like enough.

I am not a first responder, but I am, and we all should be, SOOOO grateful to them. The nurses, paramedics, doctors, firefighters, EMTs, police and others who will continue to serve the communities, expose themselves and leave their families at home to help others are the heroes in all of this. They often have some of these traits that I have talked about, and they feel a calling to serve their community and the wider world above themselves and, at times, their families.

We will all cope with what is going in in different ways. Some will be ostriches and pretend their is no problem. Some will focus on keeping themselves and their families safe. Some will get their hands dirty keeping the wider population safe. Some will work on massive solutions for the good of their city, state, nation and world.

It is all ok. Everyone will deal with this differently.

We will all have different emotional responses, and my only hope is that we all recognize the needs of those not like us.

While the introverts I know are somewhat thrilled at the prospect of being home alone, it would be wonderful if they would remember that their extrovert friends, colleagues and family members may not be coping so well. Give us a call.

Equally, there may be introverts struggling who don’t know how to reach out for support when they need it. Check on them even though you think they are fine.

If those who are solution oriented can help those who have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees understand the little things they can do to help, those people can also feel useful. Give us a task.

If the people who have financial means can help by continuing to spend money and pay those who rely on them, the financial burden will be spread out.  Share the wealth.

If everyone can think outside themselves and their family and work to protect their community, the impact will be less. Give of yourself.

We all have to work together. It is very uncertain where we will be in a week, a month a year. I am well aware that freaking out over it is not helpful, but I for one am scared of what this will mean for so many people. I am scared. I am emotional. Be patient with me.

It would be great if everyone could remember to be kind to themselves, take care of their family, protect their community and think about the wider world. We live in a global economy and world, so what is good for the whole is also good for the parts.

Try to remember that we each deal with things differently and that is what makes the world the beautiful an dynamic place that it is. We are better together. United we stand. Think globally, act locally. Be the change. One love. Etc. Etc.

Stay safe, my friends.

Sending you all love and light and absorbing all you send back!

If you liked this post, like, follow, share!

I wrote some others in this sereis:

  1. Coping During COVID-19: This time is a gift
  2. Developing a Meditation Practice…trying to anyway 
  3. Coping During COVID-19:How can I help? 
  4. Starting…and Continuing a Yoga (asana) Practice
  5. Learning to Breathe Mindfully (Pranayama)
  6. Walk Like A Yogini: Being Kind and Keeping it Real
  7. Exercise and other Drugs



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