This week, we can finally see our friends inside. We can go to their homes, eat in restaurants, go to the cinema, go to the pub.
It’s what we’ve all been waiting for, praying for, during this brutal year of uncertainty and isolation. We’re back baby!
So, why is it that you’re not rushing to fill your calendar and show off all your unseen ASOS buys? Why are your still avoiding your friends’ messages? Why does the thought of seeing everyone again make you feel a bit flat, rather than happy and excited?
It doesn’t mean that you don’t like your friends, or that there’s anything wrong with you. You might just have ‘social block’. And you’re not alone.
Social block is a little bit different to feeling anxious about socialising again. This is more like having zero motivation to get back out there. Almost like you’ve forgotten how to do it, or become a touch too comfortable in your little lockdown cocoon.
‘”Social block” is a brilliant way to describe how we are feeling,’ says Beingwell’s resident life coach, Grace McMahon.
‘It’s like writer’s block. Although we’re mostly excited about the go-ahead to reunite with friends and family after so long and so many missed celebrations – when it comes to organising, planning and actually doing the things, we’re exhausted and stumped at the thought of meeting up.
‘Now, this isn’t because we don’t really want to, or that we’ve become hugely introverted over the last year (although you may have enjoyed elements of the lack of social life) it’s likely because we’re out of practice, we’re still worried about a lot of things, and we’re realising just how exhausting going out and doing nice things can be.’
Social block is common and the signs are easy to spot. You might find yourself avoiding interaction, turning down invitations or leaving early, you also might find yourself getting overwhelmed easily or struggling to answer the phone or respond to messages.
It’s important not to underestimate the impact of prolonged isolation on our mental wellbeing, and even our personalities.
‘It is quite normal to feel like this after almost a year of some form of lockdown, going back to socialising is another big change to get used to,’ says Grace.
‘Even though memories of nights out, coffee shop catch-ups, and shopping mall hauls might be longed after, when we actually get to the event, the thought of chatting about life (where not a lot happened) might feel weird, listening to others (especially after mastering the skill of zoning out of partners and children’s ramblings) might feel like a strain, and being surrounded by people outside our bubbles, households and selves is downright daunting.
‘And as a result, for many, we feel exhausted, apprehensive and ready to bail before the time has even come.’
But, just because we’re feeling like this now, that doesn’t mean it will last forever. Social block is unlikely to be permanent, we just need to remind ourselves how to do it… and take things slow at first.
How to overcome social block after lockdown
Grace says it is no wonder that we are struggling to get excited by social plans at the moment. She says a lot of that may come to social fatigue, and hitting our social limit much quicker than we used to.
‘Firstly, we’ve not seen friends and family much this year,’ explains Grace. ‘We’ve faced the challenges that life and the pandemic have thrown at us without our support networks which means our minds have had a little (possibly a lot) more turmoil to cope with than usual and on our own, depleting our resources.
‘Secondly, we’ve not had much in-person or face-to-face interaction with anyone at all. This means that when we are seeing people as restrictions ease, our resources for socialising are depleting quicker than usual because we’ve adjusted to a quiet, solitary life around restrictions.’
Additionally, Grace says we’re worrying about the return to more relaxed lockdown rules, on top of this, because it’s more change to wrap our heads around.
‘We are now having more face-to-face interaction and seeing more people while worrying about doing all these things – which is causing us to over-fill our “social cups” much earlier.’
Here are Grace’s top tips for dealing with social block and easing your way back into seeing friends and making plans:
Just as practicing social distancing, isolating and screen-only interaction was difficult to navigate and adjust to, this will be too, but we managed and it really was weird, so we got this.
There’s no rush. You might have eager friends keen to catch up, but if you’re not feeling ready, take your time.
You might be the eager beaver ready to go, but if your friends aren’t quite there, be patient with them and offer support (don’t forget to respect each other’s boundaries).
Keep what we’ve loved from lockdown
Maybe it was the alone time, or the daily walks to clear the mind, or the new hobby.
Just because we can go back to normality, doesn’t mean we have to drop everything we’ve been doing, because there were definitely aspects we didn’t love before we weren’t allowed to do anything (the work commute, cinema prices, traffic).
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, so if you’ve got a lovely blossoming patch already, keep nurturing it too.
Make it your normal
We’re worried by the return to normality because we’re not really sure what it entails nor how to navigate it when we do.
So, make it your own, take back some control for yourself.
If that means staying at home more often, or starting a new outdoor hobby for the summer, do what makes you happy and take care of your wellbeing first.
Do you have a story to share? We want to hear from you.
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