After several months of staying home and only meeting with friends and colleagues virtually, stepping out to have coffee with other people seems so new… and awkward. Wearing masks, avoiding hugs and handshakes, and keeping a distance of six feet are only a few of the changes we need to observe when heading out. But besides heeding health protocol for gatherings and events, we also need to prepare ourselves emotionally for the impending return of face-to-face interactions.
This article contains tips for socializing again after a year in isolation. Before having that discussion, let’s talk about why we’re all suddenly so anxious to socialize.
Why are we anxious about socializing post-lockdown?
It’s ironic, really. A year ago, we all wished we could go out and meet up with our friends again. But now that we have vaccines and successful treatment and quarantine systems in place, it seems that most of us are still reluctant to break our pandemic routines. To resolve this problem, we need to understand why we feel this way.
Fear of comparison
We all have at least one friend who became a baker or entrepreneur during the lockdown. Some friends have started collecting and taking care of plants. But a few of us have been too overwhelmed with anxiety to begin any new hobbies or reignite old passions—and that’s okay. If your time in quarantine was spent quieting worries and catching up with tasks at work or school, then you shouldn’t feel afraid or shameful. Living through a pandemic is difficult enough. To face others again, you should be able to face yourself—your limitations and fears included.
Fear of leaving your comfort zone
New hobbies, new jobs, and new problems have been part of our lives in this pandemic. If it’s any consolation, we have all managed to adjust to working or studying at home, although in varying degrees. Now that we’re about to go on a different routine, we naturally feel uneasy leaving our individual comfort zones. Besides, there are many losses and changes we still find difficult to acknowledge and accept. In other words, we have gotten used to a certain way of living at home. But when we go out, we will need to face the fact that whatever we’re returning to is not the life we used to have.
So, how can we prepare ourselves to meet others again?
Meeting other people again will require establishing new routines. Even if we are still dealing with grief from the people or things we lost in the pandemic, we should allow ourselves to have a fresh start.
Be patient with yourself
You don’t need to fulfill all the meetup plans you made while in isolation. Remember that there is no deadline or quota for post-quarantine socialization. Take things slowly. Start reconnecting with the people you know best. You will benefit from the sense of friendship of security that they bring. Finding new friends can be easier if you start joining groups that share your interests.
Before doing any of that, ask yourself what you are prepared to do and whom you are prepared to meet. When you’re ready, don’t be afraid to use matchmaking apps or services that can help you meet new friends. If you’re not yet prepared to mingle, there’s nothing wrong with sitting by yourself as you enjoy your coffee, too.
Welcome awkwardness and process anxieties
Your first meet-up after isolation might be full of awkward moments and anxieties, but what is there to lose? Everyone is starting on equal footing. Extend patience to yourself and others when you meet. Some of us might have no trouble going back to our social circles, while some might find it more challenging. Don’t judge people too quickly if they sound stiff or uninterested. If you are the type of person who would be loaded with anxiety when meeting people again for the first time, then give yourself grace, too.
The last thing you should do is to ignore or deny the anxiety you are feeling. There are many reasons we are afraid to see our friends again, and it would be best to acknowledge these feelings and ask ourselves where they’re coming from. Finding the root of our fears will help us make peace with them in the long run.
After the life-changing events we encountered in quarantine, it makes sense for us to be wary of going out and seeing our friends and loved ones again. While we deal with these anxieties, we should be patient and honest with ourselves and others.