I’ve turned into an introvert who can play extrovert as I’ve grown older. I don’t believe the pandemic has helped me socially, as we’ve been quite cautious and done very, very little with friends the last year.
Looking forward, especially this summer, I’ve been broadening my activities and attempting to put my anxiety for social situations at bay. As vaccinations increase, people are also adapting their cautious Covid bubbles and the CDC is setting new recommendations for when you’ve been fully vaccinated.
Here are three things to remember for ourselves and others that can help with a slightly smoother social transition back to normal (or as normal as can be):
Remember that other people might feel awkward, too.
Let’s just all give each other a pass on a few awkward moments that are bound to happen as we open up socially. It has been a weird/terrible/trying last year. I am not a fan of small talk. But if I want to make new friends and keep the ones I have, I may need to up my tolerance and put those high school drama skills to work.
I am a person who hates making phone calls. Not all phone calls, just the ones in the in-between zone. Calls to family or close friends are fine. Ones to schedule a dentist appointment? Fine, they don’t know you or it’s a business. But the middle zone of not close friends or arranging get togethers with acquaintances? Or <gasp!> calling back people who leave a voicemail saying they “just had a question to ask” you?
However, the phone is the perfect place to make and practice your social script before you interact socially, in person, with real humans.
Remember to give ourselves and our friends grace for this past year.
Some people have turned inward to cope, and some have turned outward. I talked to a friend who shared that her Covid-comfort level of being with others outside her household was pretty high and basically uncomfortable. She shared that even though she was getting her vaccine soon, it felt strange to start opening her circle. She didn’t know how to interact with friends she was once close to.
If you’ve not felt anxious much this past year, tell me your secret! And please be gentle to your friends who are figuring out their social debuts again. Maybe they feel weird because they’ve texted you incessantly, or maybe they feel weird because they haven’t kept in contact the way they wished they would have.
Remember that your good friends are your friends.
Your friends like you for you. Believe they’re sincere when they invite you to something or say they missed you.
Pre-Covid, my husband was deployed. Two friends and I had a standing Monday night dinner group at one friend’s house. It was early on in our dinner group, and I think I may have forgotten to double check on the time or didn’t have anything to bring. I texted the friend hosting something like, “Hey, we still on for dinner tonight?” five minutes before we usually started eating. She replied, “Sure, come on over!”
My first anxiety filled thought was, Oh no, what if she wasn’t planning on extra people for dinner and she’s too nice to say anything? Or what if she doesn’t have enough and it’s awkward?
And then my thinking brain kicked in and tried to give me some confidence. What if my friend actually meant, “Sure, come on over,” because she wanted to hang out with me and my kids and have a meal together. We piled in the car and had a lovely relaxed dinner. I laughed and told her how my brain had tried to convince me she didn’t want me to come over until my confidence shoved it’s way in. We laughed about how you need to trust that your friends care about you and that they really do like you.
Jenny Taitz, an assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles said it best in an article titled “How to Deal with Quarantined-Induced Social Anxiety,” for the New York Times,
Remember that the people who we want in our lives will accept us if we accept ourselves. And if ever there was a time for nourishing connections, it’s now.