SEATTLE — For composer and actor Rich Gray, performing isn't really a choice. It's who he is.
"I feel like I should have a t-shirt that says 'extrovert,’” he said, laughing.
A longtime star of regional theater, he also served as the 2019 Seafair King. He’s a people-pleaser who loves crowds, so the "new normal" took some getting used to.
"The introverts, this is their world. They get it," he said. "The extroverts are the ones who need a little bit of support and help."
For that, a best-selling author and Ph.D. from Edmonds has some words of advice.
"We do need to remember right now, social distancing is not social isolation," said Dr. Gregory Jantz. "We need that contact, but we do need some rules around that contact."
Dr. Jantz, who developed a multi-disciplinary treatment approach to help with depression and other mental health issues, says social media can be a double-edged sword for extroverts. It connects them to a larger community, but too much information can overwhelm them - and that's unhealthy for everyone.
"An extrovert usually likes to process information out loud,” he said. "If you're the extrovert, and you're living with an introvert, be careful about the volume of your intensity right now."
Dr. Jantz suggests the answer may be as simple as making an extrovert schedule.
He suggests a daily timeline that includes:
- Physical activity for 20 minutes, three times a day
- Starting/working on a new project
- Prepping and eating healthy food
- Restricting time on social platforms for purposeful interactions only
"This is a time to re-set and maybe re-direct some of that energy," Dr. Jantz said. "The extrovert needs to be careful, and don't engage in things that are self-destructive."
For Gray, being alone hasn't felt lonely because every day he finds positive ways to be himself.
He participated in a socially-distanced concert with theater friends called Songs of Hope, and he's posting silly Facebook videos to entertain his friends.
"You know, the great realization was you can be an extrovert by yourself,” he said. “You don't need other people. You can sing a TV theme song at the top of your lungs in your house. You can put on some music and dance like everybody is watching."
But for extroverts and introverts alike, a reminder from Dr. Jantz: we're all getting through this together.
"We all need each other and that's part of the balance,” he said.