The Dangers of Winter Introversion

It’s Winter Term, and as the temperature drops, so do our spirits. Andover students are no strangers to seasonal depression, and while the flickering Christmas lights, or Hanukkah and Kwanzaa candles can brighten up the long and dark nights, I have found myself huddling in my dorm room to escape the winter weather — and other people. 

As an introvert, my social battery has always been somewhat depleted. But, lately, mustering up the courage to brave the elements and walk to Commons or downtown with my friend has been especially difficult. After all, the usual “I’m tired” or “I’d rather watch a movie alone” is now coupled with, “It’s below freezing outside, and I wouldn’t want to put on all my layers, and the walk is pretty long, and I’m not that hungry anyways.” But I can already hear you saying, why is staying inside so bad? Why is getting lost in a book under the covers, taking extra long naps, or tackling homework and munching on dorm crackers so awful? In moderation, these activities are not negative at all. But when alone time becomes loneliness, warmth becomes isolation and friends become acquaintances, that’s when Winter Term introversion becomes a crucible of selfishness and guilt.

Being alone is amazing — reading, writing, watching, scrolling, and thinking are just some of the countless calming activities you can enjoy alone if you aren’t feeling up to human interaction. But spending time with friends is amazing too, and balance is vital. Not only is being around smart, talented people fun, but it is also important. In the absence of family at Andover, friends take on an even more important role as listeners and supporters. Without someone you can vent to, someone who can support you, you can crumble under the burden of your problems with no one to help bear the load. While leaning on your friends is healthy to a certain extent, like winter introversion, it can easily become harmful when you depend on them as crutches and unqualified therapists. Without friends, “thinking” can easily become “wallowing,” and issues, personal or academic, can be daunting. Emotions you once shared with others can weigh on you until you burst. 

Winter Term is difficult. It is not fall, when excitement overwhelms fear, or Spring Term, when the smell of summer is in the air. But especially now that the urge to isolate is strongest, introverts must maintain the relationships they established in the fall. This winter more than ever, as the workload is strongest and spirit is weakest, that’s when you need friends the most. Sometimes it feels easier to ignore your friend’s text. Sometimes it feels easier to simply decide that they are not worth the trek through 13-degree weather. But introverts will soon find that, if they do not make an equal effort to nourish their friendships, they will lose their support systems at their most critical moments. Because by the time their friends have gone through enough critical moments by themselves, they will find others who are willing to give more and take less. By remaining in the four, comfortable walls of their dorm room, introverts are not only worsening their own lives but abandoning their friends, leaving them in a pile of guilt.

But maintaining relationships is anything but easy; as many introverts know, alone time can strike a perfect balance between blissful and guilt-ridden. After all, despite the cold, winter is a sticky swamp of shame. In my experience, winter introversion is linked hand-in-hand with procrastination; despite the seemingly plentiful time, dorm rooms are not productive environments, lulling you into a state of guilty nothingness. It is easy for what appear to be innocuous behaviors, like doodling, to become harmful when they are intertwined with guilt and an utter lack of energy. Despite the effort it takes to step out and head to the library, even pulling my hat below my ears or zipping up my coat can easily boost my mood by making me feel, and in turn become more productive, breaking my lethargic trance.

There’s little I love in the world more than time by myself watching rain pelt my window or cold wind blowing tall trees knowing I’m not out there. But as we move onto winter break and then enter a long stretch of breakless, bleak winter, spending time outside of our hibernation caves and interacting with others will become increasingly important. While snuggling under the covers is warm, it is not warmer than the comforts of friendship.