An Introvert’s Guide to Finding Closure Between Busy Projects

Transitioning back to everyday routines after a consuming project, like a gruelling study term, in a state of physical and mental exhaustion can feel like emerging from a dense fog.  This article details an introvert’s tips to find closure between busy projects.

Emerging From the Fog

For the first few days, I catch myself taking deep breaths, releasing the pent-up tension in my lungs, neck, and shoulders. The waves of relief wash over me and the rush to meet deadlines for final assessments slowly drops away.


Although I relish the idea of sleeping in and not having to get up at my usual early morning wake-up time, my inner lark won’t budge. While the rest of my family sleep, I quietly make my way to the kitchen just as the birds start their morning song. I switch on the kettle to brew a morning coffee. With a steaming cup in hand, I head to the lounge to snuggle up in my favourite chair while reaching for the TV remote.

For a few days, I relish binge-watching old favourite shows and indulging in comfort food, guilt-free. But something doesn’t feel right. I feel guilty for being too self-indulgent particularly when a taunting list of chores neglected for too long, beckons. Is it so wrong to take a little time just to unwind, guilt-free?

Not according to clinical psychologist, Andrea Bonoir, who notes that giving yourself permission to enjoy some restorative distractions can be helpful because we tend to judge ourselves too much to benefit from it. I found this helpful and can now enjoy resting, re-fueling, and indulging in leisure activities while the piling list of chores calmly waits its turn.

Tackling Pesky Chores

I put aside the TV remote and get busy tackling the growing list of chores which I put off during the study term.  Amidst a steaming iron, the laundry piles become smaller, the bathroom regains its sparkle, and the empty pantry is refilled. The smell of baking once again fills the kitchen beckoning the family to new and familiar tastes. Once the order is restored in the home and the family is nurtured, new fatigue sets in which quickly grows into frustration and grumpiness.  I need to rest!

Soak in Nature

After months cooped up indoors behind a computer screen, I crave fresh air and wide-open spaces. There’s a pull to get outdoors into nature for a walk and to stretch. We take a scenic drive around the Cape’s beautiful coastal and country roads, stopping along the way to soak in the fresh smell of the ocean and watch the clouds shift across the sky in their many winter forms.  I step outside the car to feel the fresh breeze on my face and take in the views of the mountains and beaches, the resting orchards and crystal flowing streams.

Catching Up with the World

While I was preoccupied for months, I didn’t fully absorb the impact of world events. I now have time to revisit pivotal news events that impacted our lives. Such as the COVID pandemic and the restrictions that deter us from engaging in our old life. Getting outdoors, meeting a friend for coffee, and visiting my mom, are all restricted now.  How bad will the global pandemic get and how will it impact my family? I wonder.

Getting Creative

By week two the fog had lifted, and my attention turns to one of my creative passions that are reserved for study breaks – writing!

One of my favourite ways to upskill during study breaks is to enrol in short online courses related to topics of personal interest. Immersing myself in writing and self-directed learning lifts the restrictions of movement and the smothered feeling that comes from safety and security concerns.  It offers inner freedom and a platform to do the things I love, in solitude and in the safe confines of home.

Explore Your Emotions

For an introvert like me, writing, and specifically journaling, offers valuable opportunities to connect with my inner world.  I need this. Because, despite the first few days spent resting and catching up on housekeeping, niggling beneath the surface I sense a deeper emotion silently wrestling to the surface. I’m curious to uncover it.

Photo by Elina Fairytale

A Blog article in SELF, encourages readers to explore feelings with curiosity and self-compassion, not judgment.

One way to explore feelings is with an emotion wheel. This tool can help to narrow general feelings such as anger, sadness, and fear, into more specific emotions. The same article notes that there are two parts to feeling a feeling. There’s the emotion that surfaces and the choice you make about whether to deal with it or ignore it. 

Bonoir notes the key difference between numbing one’s emotions versus a helpful distraction is the way it makes you feel afterwards.  Do you emerge from the chosen activity feeling positive or dreading returning to reality?  Are your emotions worse and not better afterwards?

Observe and Unravel Emotions

In the same interview with SELF, John Grych, a psychology professor notes that emotions are adaptive. Tuning into our observations of a feeling can be helpful to cope with them instead of directly acting on the feeling itself. A leading question to help with such observation is to ask yourself what the emotion is trying to tell you.

As I explored my feelings post-study term, I realised that beneath the grumpiness and fatigue I feel a sense of incompletion and strangely, loss. Something feels unfinished, and the sudden end to the term feels too sharp.  I need some kind of closure.

After decades of doing the same things and expecting different outcomes, in midlife I find I can no longer ignore my feelings. The cost of avoidance, numbing out and distracting myself from leaning into hard emotions has been too high.  Now, I better understand that endings and loss are a natural part of life. Whether it relates to relationships, jobs, travel experiences, parenting, death, and other life transitions.

Healthy Emotional Expression

Once you’ve identified and explored the emotion, it can be helpful to find a way to express the feeling mindfully and safely. This is healthier than suppressing it or projecting it on others in destructive ways. This expression will differ for everybody. Grych notes that emotions have a physical basis. Therefore, it may help to express it physically, such as by talking to a trusted friend or journaling about it. Others find it helpful to release the emotions with a good cry. Or creating art, dancing, exercise, or a safe activity that helps you feel like you are working through the emotion.

Seeking Closure and Completion

To gain that sense of completion as my studies progress, I retrace the recently completed module to take stock of what I learned and new insights gained. I scroll through my journals and creative writing projects and articles of interest.  I come across a topic I explored this year about my personality type, the Enneagram Four, and how I process loss.  The struggle with a sense of loss also relates to my past experiences with loss. 

Dealing With Loss and Endings

I don’t like endings. Endings trigger the memories of too many losses of people that are no longer part of my journey. It triggers remnants of unresolved grief that still lingers from earlier losses. Subsequent losses are tinged with greater intensity. This can be a seasonal friendship ending. Or, normal life transitions in jobs, and life stages, It is, therefore, important to learn how to navigate closure and natural endings.

According to Kubler-Ross and Kessler, authors of On Grief and Grieving, processing loss happens in layers and stages. This is based on the individual’s capacity to process painful transitions.  They maintain that there is grace in denial. It’s nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle at a specific point in time. 

A Word on Re-Grieving

The loss may therefore resurface to allow further new degrees of healing to happen. Shelby Forsythia, author of Your Grief, Your Way, adds that re-grieving or returning repeatedly to a loss is an important part of life after a significant loss. Each time you re-visit the loss you engage with it differently and has the potential to give you a wider perspective, a different context, or a deeper meaning.

Shelby’s insight offered a comforting reassurance that when I’m triggered by new losses, I’m not fixated on an old unresolved loss. New losses can include a death or symbolic loss of some kind like ending a study module. I’m simply finding new ways to live with significant losses. How? By allowing them to become woven into who I’m becoming and allowing them to continuously transform me in effective ways.

Conclusion: The Link Between Self-Care and Finding Closure

The link between self-care during big projects and finding closure may seem unfamiliar at first. But I encourage you to explore this connection to see if it resonates with your own life experiences and transitions. For a similar post, more focused on self-care, see a related article where I list ten self-care activities.

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