The experience of emerging from isolation after a pandemic is new for all of us. Over the last year, many people have become accustomed to the habits of isolation. Depending on where you live and how far along vaccinations are progressing, society may be in various stages of reopening for good.
Here are some considerations as you take steps to rebuild social connections:
Online and in-person connections are not the same. It’s easy to hide your true emotional ups and downs via emails, texts and web calls. As you begin to shift from purely online connections to more in-person socializing, take advantage of that difference. With a full read of body language, expressions and voice tones, it will be easier to connect emotionally.
Be compassionate and patient with yourself and with others. Not everyone will be comfortable resuming social life at the same pace. You or some of your friends may feel shy and awkward at first or find social interactions exhausting. Give it time, but don’t give up either. Keep going, step-by-step, until you become more comfortable together.
Be brave and resist fear. It can be scary to reach out and reconnect, especially if you’re worried about being awkward, embarrassing yourself or being rejected. Push yourself past those initial worries. Accept that you might feel uncomfortable with other people at first. Good friends will appreciate you for who you are. If the first people you try to connect with don’t have time or aren’t ready yet, give them time and try again later.
Counter negative thoughts with positive reframing. If you hit roadblocks in your efforts to rebuild social connections, take a step back and consider whether they are real or imagined. Are you reading too much into someone’s slow response to your invitation? Might they be genuinely busy with a tight work deadline, young children or care for an aging parent rather than avoiding you? Think of positive explanations for what you’re observing. Challenge your negative and unrealistic thoughts.
Be vulnerable. It’s tempting to keep defensive armor up and present an appearance of emotional strength and steady happiness. Work up gradually from easy talk about work, movies or sports, to more meaningful topics that involve sharing feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend, and be willing to give help when needed.
If you are concerned about your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek advice. BHS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 800-245-1150.