As society emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, many are feeling excited yet anxious and awkward about returning to normal life and interacting with others. What used to come so naturally doesn't feel so natural anymore.
Over the past year, your social skills may have gotten rusty. That's OK and natural after dealing with the uncertainty about your health, safety, home and work life, friendships and so much more.
Here are some tips for regaining your comfort and confidence in social situations:
- Do what feels safe and right for you.
That may mean seeking out information from reputable sources; following best practice recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and Mayo Clinic; and getting vaccinated for COVID-19.
- Figure out your boundaries — and those of others.
Everyone is at different comfort levels. If you're with a friend who's not ready to eat in a restaurant yet, try dining on a patio or having a picnic. If you feel better wearing a mask at a gathering, have a conversation about it beforehand so everyone is on the same page.
- Start slowly.
It's like getting into a pool: Dip your toes in, then gradually wade in a little deeper. At first, you may want to continue some Zoom meetings, go for a walk with just one or two colleagues, or mingle with small groups rather than a big crowd. Eventually, you'll feel more comfortable near the deep end.
- Be kind and respectful — to yourself and those around you.
COVID-19 has affected people in so many ways, and everyone is feeling a little rusty. If you make a social goof, laugh about it with the person you're with, which will soften the situation for both of you.
- Continue your self-care.
Following your daily routine, being physically active, spending time outdoors, eating healthy foods and snacks, and getting enough sleep can bolster your resiliency and help you maintain a positive attitude.
Remember, everyone is brushing off the social rust together. If your anxiety continues and is negatively affecting your relationships, consider consulting your primary care provider or a mental health provider.
Olivia Bogucki, Ph.D., is a clinical health psychology fellow in Primary Care at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Mayo Family Clinic Kasson.