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Meeting up with family and friends isn’t as easy as it once was.
Gone are the days where the hardest part of a meet-up was agreeing on a date – now, you’re wondering how you’ll get there safely, whether the weather will hold up, where nearby toilets are (if, indeed, they’re open), and if you and your mate will both stick to social distancing rules. It’s no wonder we’re exhausted.
“We haven’t done it for so long, so face-to-face socialising is something our minds and bodies have become unaccustomed to,” says Lucy Fuller, a counsellor, psychotherapist and member of the UK Council for Psychotherapy.
“We’re having to think and concentrate more about how we go about this activity, so we’re using up more mental energy.”
In lockdown, we hunkered down and became used to doing, well, not an awful lot. “Lockdown cast us all into an extraordinary world where our lives suddenly retracted to not much more than the four walls of our homes,” Fuller explains.
“We will all have adapted in some way to cope with our new existence, something that humans are generally very good at. We possess the animal instinct of survival and we will do our best to adjust our minds and physical activity to fit with how our lives need to be for the foreseeable future.”
Because of this, we’ve become used to doing very little socialising or having occasional remote connections with friends and family over the internet. As things are changing – and we’re seeing loved ones in person again – we’re having to think of how to stay safe while we do this. We’re also doing a lot more physical activity than we’re used to, compared to the sofa days of lockdown.
“Although we might think of these activities as something just ordinary, because we haven’t done them for a while they become ‘novel’ and we may start to over-think them to a greater or lesser extent,” says Fuller.
People with social anxiety in particular may find it difficult to get back into the habit of socialising, says Fuller. If this is the case, start small. Meet with one close friend and build your social life back up slowly in terms of the number of people you meet and the length of time you spend together.
Another reason for the exhaustion? As lockdown has eased, there’s been a real temptation to go all out and see everyone immediately, says psychotherapist Rakhi Chand, who is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Resist the urge to overdo it. “It’s hard to remember to temper that impulse – and that ‘pacing’ oneself may be important for mental health,” she says.
The “big socialisers” – those who are filling up their diary at every opportunity – will know if they’ve overdone it because they’ll feel depleted of energy, says Fuller, and they’ll probably be left wondering why. “Again, look after your energy and your wellbeing and get your life back on track at a safe and comfortable pace for you,” she says.
Awareness of how you’re feeling is key in the coming months – so listen to your body and be in tune with what you need, whether that’s rest, contact, fresh air, sleep or stimulation, says Chand. She encourages people to be creative with their social lives, to look for compromise, and to prioritise self-care, too.
“Last night I had this very issue,” she tells HuffPost UK. “I was exhausted but also really wanted to see family I hadn’t seen in a long while. I looked for ways I could rest around that visit, like having a lie-in this morning. Simple stuff, really.”
It’s all about finding your “socialising equilibrium”, adds Chand. Do you feel well rested by socialising every day of the week, every other day, once a week?
“This often links to being able to say ‘no’,” she says. “If saying ‘no’ is hard for you, I’d suggest prioritising some professional help with that – it underpins so much of mental health.”
Useful websites and helplines
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).