For most people, the pandemic life of 2020 was not kind to many areas of our lives. Quarantine was extremely isolating, and our mental health suffered because of it. Our friends, who we once leaned on and made plans with without a second thought, became dangerous to our health. We had to pull away from the community activities that we loved to take part in. Everyone outside of our home had to be loved from a distance.
Now that vaccines are available and masks are slowly being put down, we can start reconnecting and actively participate in the things that we used to enjoy. But how do we go from being alone for a year to suddenly rekindling those friendships and making our way back out into our communities?
Take it Slow
Being around people is going to feel weird in the beginning, almost like you are breaking the rules. Social distancing for such a long time has changed our mindset of how we socialize. Take it slow and ease into back into it. Going from Zoom and Team hangouts to being around people in person might feel like a bit of a shock to some. Social Anxiety, while not an issue before the pandemic, might be a new problem for many people. Stores might feel louder. Places might feel incredibly crowded and loud. The important thing is that we take our new ability for social interaction slow and proceed as we feel comfortable.
Instead of a large group at once, meet with just a few at a time. Easing back into it can feel less overwhelming. Meeting with a smaller group can also allow you to focus more on one or two people at a time. Meeting for coffee might be a good place to start. This will allow for more one-on-one time and could be more enjoyable. As much as we would like to be as social, as we were before, starting smaller can make being around others easier to handle starting out.
Recognize the Limitations of Others
Just because you might be eager to get out and socialize does not mean others are ready. A year is a long time to live in isolation and way from others, no matter the reason. Even if we might feel ready to venture out, others might not. There are some who struggle with being around people too soon and we must respect those boundaries. Some people might not be mentally ready to resume social activities like before the Pandemic. And that is ok. Each person needs to go at their own pace and take as much time as they need to take. As their friends, we must recognize that.
Be Easy on Yourself
As we grow closer to the end of social distancing and quarantine, it can be difficult to not want to jump in headfirst into social situations. So that we do not take on too much and cause a social jolt to our systems, we should be easy on ourselves in social settings in the beginning. Just as we need to start small, we need to recognize the signs that we might need to slow back down.
The end of social distancing and quarantine might be ending; however, it will be an adjustment for everyone. Not everybody is going to have the same social enthusiasm as the next person. It is important that we take our time and do only what we feel comfortable doing. Our friends will be there waiting.
Here are some good resources for helping you navigate our new social world:
Misty Roussa is a Louisiana native who lives with her husband and two children. She has contributed to Red Stick Mom, The CF Foundation, and Cystic-Fibrosis.com. When she isn't writing, you can find her reading, listening to podcasts, or trying to cook something her family will enjoy.