And with our social lives mostly restricted to Zoom drinks over the past 15 months, you might feel like you’re expected to go from sitting on your couch to running a marathon without so much as stretching your hamstrings.
But that’s not necessarily the case. Here are some things that might help you manage any post-COVID uneasiness you may feel.
Set your boundaries and let others know
Managing expectations is a good way to avoid disappointment no matter what you’re doing. Work out what you’re comfortable and not comfortable with doing – it may help to write these things down.
That can help you build a picture of what social situations you are happy to be part of, and what you’d like to avoid. If you discuss these - and why - with someone else who is going to the same event, they can help support you and make sure you’re feeling safe.
It’s OK to say “no”
As sure as the sun sets in the west, there will be pressure to do something you may not be entirely comfortable with. Maybe it’s someone going to hug you, or an invitation to a house party, or a less COVID-safe venue or seeing some people who have been more cavalier in their approach to the pandemic.
Saying “no” to your friends can be difficult but remember that you’re not saying “no” forever. Establishing your boundaries early can help you politely decline an invitation. And yes, FOMO is certainly real, but you’re not really MO - just postponing for now.
Control what you can control – and be mindful of what you can’t
If you’re heading out to a social event it makes sense to be prepared. Once upon a time we wouldn’t leave home without our wallet, keys, and phone. Now we can add our mask and hand sanitiser to that list too.
You can control the steps you take to safeguard yourself – including wearing a mask, using hand sanitiser, maintaining a social distance where possible, going cashless and meeting others outside. With the weather getting nicer, you may be able to walk places rather than taking public transport.
Unfortunately, you might not be able to control how close another table is seated to you in a beer garden, or if other people are wearing their mask correctly if at all. If you try to focus on mitigating risk, rather than on others’ misdeeds, you might be able to regain some control over the situation.
You may need to find another train carriage to stand in or ask a friend to change seats with you to help you feel more comfortable. Controlling a situation doesn’t mean forcing others to do what you want - and only what you want – but rather being able to work within your own boundaries with tools or strategies to help you feel safe.
Take a moment if you need one
If things get too much, you may need to step away to gather your thoughts. Counting, mindfully breathing, or stretching your legs can all help relieve some nervousness. You may have your own tried-and-true techniques so do whatever works for you.
And if you do step away, it’s also OK to not go back. But don’t forget to let your friends know you’re heading home – but are looking forward to next time!
We’ve all been through the same thing – but we’re coming out the other side
The last 15 months have been tough on all of us. Maybe you haven’t had the chance to get a haircut yet, and maybe you don’t want to. Maybe your clothes are baggier or tighter than they used to be. Maybe you’ve forgotten how to make small talk. Maybe you wish you could mute people in real life.
So much has changed for everyone, that we are probably all a bit nervous about how the world is going to work. But case numbers are declining, more people are vaccinated, and there are measures in place to protect us.
Again, you don’t need to rush out and spend your days in crowded shops and nights in crowded bars. Take your time and find your feet, because most people are probably doing the same thing too.
Talk about how you’re feeling
We mentioned earlier about letting friends know what your boundaries are so they can respect them. Talking about how you’re feeling can help you unpack your own thinking as well.
Even if you have a great, supportive network of people, it’s sometimes easier to open up to those you don’t know. Togetherall is our free, anonymous online mental health platform with discussion boards, tools, resources, and experts on hand to help you work through whatever’s happening in your life.
And remember, if you’re feeling anxious, sad or just a bit off, you can also speak to your GP and they can help you access a variety of support services and tools.