Relearning to Socialize Post-COVID

Lauren Engelking - July 15th 2022

Do you ever find yourself feeling a little awkward or out of place in social situations, or even just being out in public? Perhaps even more so in the last year as society has slowly began to reopen post-COVID? If this sounds like you, you’re not alone! Research shows that when individuals are isolated from the greater population, the ability to socialize can deteriorate, much like muscles not in use. But all hope is not lost for your social skills! There are steps we can take to readjust to social occasions and just existing in the world around people in general.

1. Talk to your friends, family, coworkers, etc. about how you’re feeling. The global pandemic has been an incredibly unique event in the sense that we had a similar experience in being more isolated from others than we ever have before. This collective experience creates new common ground and simply discussing this with others can have a big impact on our wellbeing as we feel heard and our needs are seen. Laughing about the shared awkwardness of social situations may actually help relieve some of discomfort of reengaging in social settings.

2. Take small steps in readjusting. Our “social batteries” are likely less “charged” than they were prior to the pandemic. In other words, it’s possible we cannot maintain social situations for as long a duration as we used to be able to, but that’s OK! It’s important to take small steps to reintegrating to society if you are feeling overwhelmed or awkward. This could look like a thirty minute coffee with a friend, a quick walk around the block with your coworker, maybe signing up for a fitness class with new people. Whatever works for you, go for it. But whatever it may be, remember to…

3. Listen to yourself. It can be easy to become overwhelmed and overstimulated by large groups of people or long durations of social interaction after we have essentially been home alone for the past two years. Give yourself grace and allow yourself to check out of situations early if you need to. Before the pandemic we had years and years of our childhood to learn how to act in social interactions and be comfortable in doing so. After the last two year “pause”, it’s natural that we may need some time to build up to where we were before.

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Ro, C. 2021. With socialising at a near halt during the pandemic, our social muscles have atrophied. We may have to re-train ourselves to be with others again – but how? British Broadcasting Corporation.

Tagle, A., and C. M. Schneider, 2021. Do We Even Know How To Socialize Anymore? National Public Radio.