My experience: The realities of socialising in life after lockdown

03 Sep 2021
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

I’ve always considered myself a social person; in fact, hanging out with friends and family is a big part of what makes me happy. So, why do I suddenly feel so anxious about it?

To say that Covid hasn’t had an impact on how we feel about socialising, I think, would be a bit naive. With 18 months of restrictions on socialising, events and general day-to-day life, it’s fair to say we’ve got used to our own company (or, at least, of those in our bubble).

But now things are opening up again and, suddenly, my social calendar is busier than it’s ever been. From catching up with groups of friends I haven’t had to chance to see in over a year, to a back-up of hen dos, weddings and big birthday parties, it’s been quite literally the summer of freedom and fun.

The thing is, though, it’s a lot to take in – and I haven’t been all that excited about it. Here’s why…

Handling catch-ups and small talk

For most of us, not all that much has happened in the last year and, thanks to an overuse of video chat and social media, we’re pretty much caught up on what’s been happening in our friends’ lives. As a general rule, this means we’re working harder at conversation or making small talk around two subjects when we see each other: Covid or the weather.

Even when there is more to talk about, though, the actual act of speaking to numerous people in one go can be pretty exhausting. Honestly? Sometimes, I need a day or two recovery time after a busy gathering.

This means even the idea of going out and joining in these big social events can be quite overwhelming. As creatures of habit, we’ve got used to doing our own thing. To suddenly give up our free time to attend social gatherings and re-learn the art of conversation… well, when are you going to fit in that reading time?

Mentally prepping before an event

The other part of socialising again is getting ready to do it. Before I went to my first wedding event this summer, I realised I hadn’t actually put proper make-up on in months or worn heels since 2019 (something which used to be a casual staple). I’d gotten too comfortable in my PJs and flip-flops.

Suddenly, I was self-conscious about the fact that I actually needed to make myself look good again. Would people be looking to see if I’d put on weight, or wonder why I hadn’t updated my wardrobe in almost two years?

The reality of this is, let’s be honest, that no one particularly cares – in fact, they’re probably worrying about the same things. However, the mental drama of trying to remember what’s acceptable to wear outside again can be pretty frustrating.

But what about Covid?

It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room – and that’s Covid itself. Covid is still out there, which means, for some people, the idea of hanging out in big groups can be quite terrifying.

For me, I haven’t worried about this as much as I thought I would, particularly after I got the first few events under my belt. Before going out, though, I’ve taken lateral flow tests and asked others to do the same. After all, we just need to mitigate the risks, right?

However, if you’re vulnerable then this can contribute massively to social anxiety, and I’ve come across more than one friend who still doesn’t want to hug and likes to keep their distance. That’s totally okay and we all need to deal in our own ways!

We’re not alone

One thing I’ve found is that I’m not the only one feeling anxious about socialising again. In fact, organisations like Mind have now shared guides on how to deal with socialising in a post-Covid world.

So, if you’re feeling nervous, you’re not alone. And I can honestly say that it does get better. Things are getting easier, mostly because I’m making sure I’m giving myself the time I need to decompress when I feel overwhelmed and not booking too much at once.

If you’re really feeling the stress, though, don’t forget there are people you can speak to for support. Even just a small chat can make all the difference!

This article is the second in a new blog series we have here on The Common Room, called The World According to Hazel - where post-grad Hazel shares her everyday experiences and covers the topics that matter the most. Read her article on plastic-free shopping that we posted earlier this week.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.