Social fatigue & navigating the return of ‘normal life’

Article by Grace McMahon, resident Life Coach at Beingwell

Modern team meeting, group work and social distancing, coronavirus, returning to the officeHave you been feeling particularly drained, emotionally and physically over the last few months (try the year!)?

Lost your mojo, focus and productivity? Getting irritated by nothing and everything, swinging from fairly content and quite callous and before you know it, bored out of your mind?

Have you heard of social fatigue? It’s something commonly described by introverts when we reach the limit of socialising. Although not everyone will identify nor usually class themselves as an introvert, you might still be feeling the effects of social fatigue – and might well be thinking “how am I socially fatigued – we’ve not seen anyone for a year?!” and that is quite possibly exactly why many of us are.

Firstly, we’ve not seen friends and family much this year. We’ve faced the challenges that life and the pandemic have thrown at us without our support networks which means our minds have had a little (possibly a lot) more turmoil to cope with than usual and on our own, depleting our resources.

Secondly, we’ve not had much in-person or face-to-face interaction with anyone at all. No pubs, shops, gyms, salons, baby groups, the list goes on, to see another face in real life, to work out around other people, to smile and nod at strangers. This means that when we are seeing people as restrictions ease, our resources for socialising are depleting quicker than usual because we’ve adjusted to a quiet, solitary life around restrictions.

Thirdly, we’re worrying about the return to more relaxed lockdown rules, on top of this, because it’s more change to wrap our heads around. And on top of that, we are now having more face-to-face interaction and seeing more people while worrying about doing all these things – which is causing us to over-fill our ‘social cups’, leading to us feeling fried by 7pm after a Saturday afternoon garden party that, previously, we’d still be boogying at till the small hours of the morning!

Now if this sounds familiar (pandemic-caused or not) here are three tips for easing back into normality without feeling exhausted by the prospect, never mind the actual doing!

  1. Take your time – if you’re one of the many not sprinting back to the pub, not desperately phoning your hairdresser trying to squeeze an appointment it, not raring to get back to shopping centres – that’s cool. If you are, enjoy the freedom (but within guidelines). It doesn’t really matter what everyone else is doing as long as you are comfortable and content with your pace, try to let go of FOMO (fear of missing out) because there’ll be other events, meetups, bottomless brunches to get to when you feel more ready – and can sit through them in peace and joy, rather than discomfort and a longing to be back on your sofa with a cuppa.
  2. Hold your boundaries – be firm with yourself and others around your boundaries, some of us may be more than happy to go for a picnic in the park but not quite ready for the bustle of the beer garden. It can be challenging to do, it might annoy a few people but you’ve spent the last year dealing with a pandemic so go easy on yourself, join friends when you want and politely decline, rearrange or suggest a more suitable option you’ll all enjoy and feel comfortable with. Don’t just go because someone said “it’ll be great” or “you’ll be fine once you get there” – you might, they’re probably not wrong but we don’t need to push ourselves for anyone else.
  3. Make it your normal – we’re worried by the return to normality because we’re not really sure what it entails nor how to navigate it when we do. So make it your own, take back some control for yourself. If that means staying at home more often, or starting a new outdoor hobby for the summer, do what makes you happy and take care of your wellbeing first.

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