Normality is slowly returning; friends and family are reuniting, and businesses are opening their doors once more. It’s the moment many of us have been waiting for all year. But, while it’s a positive turning point, it can also feel daunting – and that’s entirely normal.
After a long, dark winter in lockdown, the busyness of shops, pub gardens and other social spaces can be overwhelming. You may not feel as ready as you thought you would. But don’t be hard on yourself. These five tips will help you ease back into things – when you’re ready to.
Social anxiety is common
Many people will feel anxious stepping out after a lockdown. Even the most confident people can feel some degree of anxiety when they’re in social situations. Whether that be a new situation or something they haven’t done for a while.
The change in ‘social rules’ may also cause, or add to, social anxiety. Can we hug? How far apart should we be? When should I wear my mask? These are all new things to think about, which can cause anxious feelings.
You certainly won’t be the only person having these thoughts – find comfort knowing that you aren’t alone. Try talking to your family or friends about any worries you have. There’s a good chance they may feel the same.
Ease yourself back in
There’s no pressure to get out and socialise straight away, or that often. Start by meeting one or two friends at first, or just see your close family in your garden or a park. Making lots of plans with different people might feel overwhelming.
You may also find socialising or hosting again tiring after a long period of being socially inactive. Take it slow and start with your nearest and dearest in smaller groups.
Pre-plan things within your control
There are lots of things you can’t control when you’re in a social environment. You don’t know what conversations you’ll have or what questions you’ll be asked. You don’t know how others will act or how busy the place you’re meeting at will be.
Focusing on the thing you can control may help you feel better.
- If you’re meeting people somewhere, plan how you’ll get there and how you’ll get home.
- Choose to meet somewhere you’re familiar with.
- If you’re eating out, look at the menu in advance and decide what to eat.
- Get ready in good time, so you don’t feel rushed.
- Have a spare face mask to hand in case you lose one.
Respect other people’s views
Everyone will feel differently about the easing of lockdown. If a close friend or family member isn’t ready to meet up in person, try to maintain contact on the phone or over screen. Or suggest a one-on-one walk and coffee, before meeting in a larger group.
Be sure to maintain social distancing to help others feel comfortable. Know when and where to wear a face mask – ask if you’re not sure.
Be present and connect
Remind yourself of all the things you missed during lockdown. So many of those things are now possible. Whether that be having coffee with your best friends, hosting a family BBQ in your garden or getting back to sport.
Social interaction and healthy relationships play a huge role in your overall wellbeing. Feeling close to, and valued by, others is an important human need.
Next time you’re in a social situation, bring yourself into the moment. Put your phone away, listen to whoever is talking and appreciate all the things you’ve missed about being with them.