21 April 2021
How to find happiness in social connections post COVID
If you’re finding yourself fearful of going out to meet friends, afraid to touch door handles, elevator buttons, or be in close proximity to colleagues, you’re not alone. COVID-19 has meant that we’ve had to swap socialising for social distancing and social isolation, and we’ve had to forgo in person interaction for Zoom instead.
Who can blame you if your mental health and happiness has suffered along the way? And to make matters worse many of us are finding it hard to get back out there and connect with friends & family because we are afraid what that might mean.
The constant barrage of media coverage over the pandemic and the limitations on our social interactions has left most of us living in fear and feeling socially awkward. However, it is now more than ever that we need to be proactively taking control of our thoughts and emotions especially when it comes to resuming social activities.
Even though at first it may seem a little scary to get back out there, especially with the fear of catching COVID in the back of our minds, it’s important to begin easing yourself back into socialising once again. This will take a bit of time and effort on your part but it’s definitely worth it.
You see humans are social beings, we are not meant to live in isolation. In fact, it’s important for us to be able to engage, and express our thoughts and feelings with others and share experiences and milestones. This is true even for introverted people. Additionally, when we physically interact with loved ones, such as hugging, or breastfeeding the pituitary gland produces oxytocin, a hormone that helps us feel relaxed and happy. The health benefits in maintaining social connectedness now and into the future are many.
Research shows that loneliness and social isolation is linked to an increase in mental health issues like depression and anxiety, as well as chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. It also raises the risk of dementia in older adults.
This is why is it critical that you recognise that you can’t remain in isolation for long periods and to slowly begin working your way up to feeling comfortable in social settings. Remember your health encompasses physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social needs, if one of these is lacking you may feel off balance, emotional or suffer health issues.
We’ve come up with six tips to help you ease back into the social swing of things and help you overcome fears about socialising again.
- Educate yourself about the facts of COVID.
With so many news reports, conflicting information and stories going around, it’s important that you get the facts about COVID. Understanding the reality of COVID, who it affects, and the statistics can help put your mind at ease as well as help you gain control of your thoughts and emotions and mentally prepare yourself to ease back into socialising and interacting with others in person.
- Ease yourself back into social encounters
One of the best things you can do is start to slowly ease your way into social encounters, this might be by going into the office a few days a week or seeing a friend once or twice a week until you overcome your fear and begin to feel more comfortable towards social encounters. Initially you may feel apprehensive, but you can overcome this by wearing a mask and social distancing while still being around people. After doing this for a month or two you will begin to overcome your fears and develop your confidence in socialising more.
- Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions
If you find yourself feeling apprehensive, take some time to reflect on why you’re feeling this way and ask yourself are you being reasonable? How can you resume your social encounters but also remain safe?
It’s important to challenge any unreasonable thoughts and feelings you may have to ensure that you don’t let your mind get carried away with the worst-case scenario. Rather try to be objective and reasonable so that you can begin to get on with life.
- Readjust slowly
Maybe you might want to wear gloves, carry hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, wash your hands frequently and wear a mask in public. These are all reasonable things you can do to help you feel OK about going out or socialising. Just take it easy on yourself but also try to make sure that you are making the necessary adjustments both mental and otherwise to help you resume social interaction once again.
- Use visualization to help you prepare yourself to resume social encounters
Visualising yourself out and about with friends and loved ones, enjoying your day and making the most of life is a technique you can use to help your mind prepare itself for taking action. The likelihood of taking action increases exponentially when an outcome has already been visualized. The more you visualise something the more your brain starts to develop neural connections that result from the repeated visual image, motivation is also boosted which increases the likelihood of you taking an action toward your goal.
- Speak to a trusted health professional such as your GP or psychologist or counsellor
Your doctor can assess your risk for loneliness and social isolation and get you connected to community resources for help, if needed.