Gone are the days of nostalgically pining for the club, the pub, the cinema, and generally the Outside World. We’re almost back to before times, as Boris Johnson works on lifting the last of the Covid restrictions in the UK.
But despite the strangely low case numbers and the “world-beating” vaccine system we’ve seen in the last few months, many of us still feel a lot of anxiety over going back to ‘normal’. Yes, you can legally drink outside in groups now and stay out till your heart’s content, but the Delta variant rages on and some say the recent dip in cases may be temporary. The pingdemic is truly still around.
Which is why some people are finding it difficult to commit to plans at all. Cases being highest among people in their 20s, the fact that you can still get Covid after being double-jabbed (and carry it), and worries about other variants are causing people to decline invitations.
So how do you tell a pal or another loved one that you just don’t want to go for brunch, or meals out, or go ‘out out’ without hurting their feelings?
For 26-year-old Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, who had to be ultra careful as to not infect her immunocompromised grandparents, the sudden lifting of restrictions hasn’t made her abandon the caution she took this past year.
“When restrictions were around, for people who don’t take the pandemic that seriously, there was a legal framework - there were consequences. But I was even more cautious than the rules would stipulate. With the complete removal of restrictions, it’s anxiety-inducing because then you don’t even have this scapegoat of the rules,” Manzoor-Khan, from Leeds, tells HuffPost UK.
“For the past 16 months. I’ve been in this mode of having to be cautious on behalf of my high-risk grandparents, and just being so wary and so careful about everything and then suddenly being told restrictions are lifted - everyone else is acting like it’s over now but it’s not. I think it really like messes with your mind and I don’t know how to shift that mindset.
“I missed a couple of weddings during last year and some of my friends got married this year, but now it feels much harder to communicate why I’m not comfortable because legally you can, and it confuses people when I say no.”
Equally for analyst Lavinia D’Sousa, who under normal circumstances has a thriving social calendar, the outside world isn’t too appealing. “I’m getting the second jab soon and I’m still not happy about socialising much,” the 34-year-old from Leeds explains. “This is coming from a super social person who loves partying and meeting people. I don’t believe it’s worth it and am going to try to distance as much as possible as I’ve seen the horrifying effects the Delta variant has had on friends and extended family members.”
It’s not just the new variant, but the long Covid risk that’s concerning for 27-year-old marketing manager Pauline Jérémie from London.
“I think it’s way too early, and we’re all still at risk,” she says. “While with the vaccine we’re likely to have milder cases, I don’t want to risk getting long Covid. There are also plenty of people at risk who are relying on us to be careful.”
To date, Jérémie has met with friends in safe environments, or declined invitations altogether. “Most people have been really understanding and more questioning than judgemental,” she says.
So, what to do?
Grace Warwick, a therapist and member of the Counselling Directory, says the lifting of restrictions can stir conflicting feelings within an individual, let alone between loved ones, so it is natural that discussions will be needed.
“If you want to tell a loved one that you don’t want to go out, it can be useful to focus on just sharing your thoughts and feelings about it, rather than draw attention to or criticising their different perspective as being somehow flawed or incorrect,” she says. “We can only each do what is right for us at the moment. Consider any variables that you may be willing to offer. For example, do you feel that you can reassess the situation in a few weeks or months? Is there a location that you may feel more comfortable visiting or a time of day that would suit you better?
“Try to express or develop a shared end goal such as that eventually you will resume sharing these things with them, but that needs to be at a pace that you feel comfortable and safe with.”
With most social activities now being legally allowed, it might cause some friction in your relationships if the other person doesn’t understand why you’d say no to coming out.
“It may be the case that your loved one feels hurt, disappointed or even angry at your perspective,” explains Warwick. “But try to listen to their view as best as you can without criticism. Try to understand the needs that your loved one is expressing, for them going out may be a need for freedom, a sense of normality, some much-needed fun. Try not to take the difference of opinion personally and maybe see if there are other ways that you can help them meet these needs.”
It might take some back and forth, but try not to compromise on your own fears and beliefs. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
Covid-19 is more than a news story – it has changed every aspect of life in the UK. We are following how Britain is experiencing this crisis, the different stages of collective emotion, reaction and resilience. You can tell us how you are feeling and find further advice and resources here.