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Practising As An Introvert - What Works?

introvertI was lying in bed a few nights ago, reflecting upon my day and thinking how fortunate I am to be doing something I really enjoy and am passionate about.

Physiotherapy allows me to work with, and help my clients overcome physical problems which are usually impacting on quality of life. To be able to help is very rewarding. Being able to work, exercise and recreate without pain and with relative ease is so important to most of us, and for good reason. It's what makes us feel alive and well.

That said, as an introvert, treating patients, interacting and engaging closely with many different people on a day to day basis is not an activity I am naturally predisposed to. My personality type would usually be more inclined towards more solitary types of work, such as computer programming perhaps.

However according to what is termed as ‘free trait theory’, there are many instances where introverts assume more extrovert type behaviours while in pursuit of a professional or personal endeavour which has meaning and resonance to them. In other words, as I have come to understand, if you feel that what you are doing is worthy and fulfils some inner purpose, it is possible to act out of type.

Introverts who behave according to free trait theory need to manage themselves carefully. Dr. Brian Little would refer to as 'restorative niches' which are essential to recharge and recuperate after a busy spell of 'extroverting'. This might involve taking a quiet walk at lunch time, going somewhere quiet for a tea break, walking to or from work if possible to get some downtime before arriving home to the family, zoning out of a noisy work environment for a while with a set of headphones or even hiding out in the bathroom for a few minutes! On the weekends, a power nap gives me a restorative break from the busyness of our lively children.

These ‘restorative niches’ are essential and if not done, the introverts may burn out due to nervous system overstimulation. I know this to be true as I have burnt out myself, more than once. So I have to manage my working days quite carefully. To be at my best for my patients, to be able to give them the attention and care they deserve and expect.

If I get the balance right, my working day ends up being a very satisfying mix of clinical work with patients followed by quiet clinic administration and management tasks, lecture preparation, course development, writing and so on. A nice run in Deer Park at the end of the day listening to a podcast is a bonus.

If you are an introvert, working in an extrovert environment, remember to look for those restorative niches. If you are struggling with headaches, fatigue, aches and pains, sleep disturbances or a lack of motivation, you are probably not giving yourself the quiet recharge time you need.

So to all fellow introverts, I say please mind yourselves to be at your best for those who need you.

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