Does the phrase “getting back into the social scene” strike excitement or fear in you? Or both? Just like when the pandemic started, we are once again in uncharted waters. All emotions are fair play here.
While the act of going out to dinner with friends may have seemed simple a year and a half ago, this venture might now come with a side of anxiety, reluctance and even confusion. It might also feel exactly the same as it did before.
Whether you are socially diving back in headfirst, just putting one toe in the water or deciding not to swim at all, these five tips can help navigate your way through the post-pandemic social scene.
1. Recognize this transition isn’t easy.
There is a new divide between how people view social outings and activities. Some have discovered they love being home while others are saying “yes” to everything they possibly can, just because they can.
Rest assured, though, that no decision is better than another. We each have our own unique circumstances, so try to avoid comparing yourself to others. The more you compare, the more you might start to notice yourself experiencing difficult emotions. Instead, try to hone in on how you’re feeling about socializing and create the boundaries that feel good to you. Offer your friends, family members and colleagues some grace when your opinions and feelings differ. We all handle change differently.
Remember, just because you feel one way today doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. Take it day by day, event by event, and stand strong in the truth that your position is valid.
2. Social stress? Find your feet with mindfulness.
While preparation can help with foreseen situations, what happens when you are out somewhere and an unexpected stressful situation or emotion arises? Finding your feet is a great mindfulness technique that can help in the moment, and it is exactly what it sounds like. It goes like this:
- When you notice a stressful situation or emotion, take a moment to notice where your feet are with your senses.
- Feel your feet on the ground. Can you feel the points of contact with the floor, your socks or your shoes?
- Notice what physical sensations are here. Do your feet hurt? Is there a lack of pain?
- What colors and textures do you see?
- What do your feet sound like as they move back and forth across the floor?
- Maybe leave out what you smell…
Taking a moment to pause and anchor yourself in the present moment by focusing on something outside of your mind can help get you out of the fight, flight or freeze response that happens during stress.
3. Give your body and brain time to adjust.
Even though most of us have been social for as long as we can remember, there’s a chance that outings may take a toll on you in a different way than how they did before the pandemic. Because it may have been some time since we have read body language, facial expressions, or frankly, just been in person with one another anymore, it takes our bodies and minds some time to readjust.
4. Take care of yourself.
Imagine going to the gym every day, and then suddenly and without preparation, you stop going for a year. On your first day back, you probably aren’t going to be running for as long or lifting the same amount of weight that you were before you stopped. The same can be said for your social stamina.
Knowing that, try to start out slow and build your way up. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and what feels possible and safe in the future and each unique situation.
As we ease back into normal life and activities, it’s important to remember to continue nourishing your mind and body. Incorporating more social outings into your lifestyle might mean less time for the at-home gym you perfected and more eating out. And that’s okay! You found balance when the pandemic started, and you can shift your feet again.
It’s time to get creative and perhaps bring back the “walking meeting” at work, walk around the block after dinner, or park yoga with your best friend. At the same time, keep in mind that you may need more rest and self-care to recover from a more full schedule. Take the time to listen to your body and give it what it needs.
5. Embrace your community.
More social time means more community, and community is so critical for your health and well-being. Maybe you’ve discovered during the pandemic that you love alone time, but try not to confuse this with isolation. Alone time is helpful when it’s intentional and productive (in the self-care sense) and is not meant to happen tous.
If you notice that alone time is happening because you aren’t making efforts to reach out to others, or that it consistently coincides with a low mood, encourage yourself to build that socialization muscle. Now that it’s an option for many of us again, keep in mind that being with others has the powerful ability improve our moods, decrease loneliness, and help provide a general sense of purpose.
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About the author
Eli Mandel, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and currently serves as a program manager of wellness at Baylor Scott & White Health. Eli has more than eight years of experience in the mental health field. In his current position, Eli helps physician residents and fellows at Baylor University Medical Center maintain their wellbeing so they can best serve their patients. He believes that true wellness comes through the fulfillment of multiple dimensions of life and that it must be approached with intention.