Being Able to Reconnect With Friends After a Year of Staying Home in Sweats Is Making People Anxious—Here’s How To Cope

Photo: Getty Images/Thomas Barwick
Last week, the CDC loosened its mask guidelines, opening the door to in-person interactions with loved ones wider than it's been in over a year. And based on social media responses, it's evident that people went through a few emotional stages in reaction to this, including: relief that society keeps shuffling forward, concern that this means you'll have to start wearing hard pants again, and fear that life is going to feel like one ongoing "hold on spider monkey" moment (Twilight fans, IYKYK) because you've lost any semblance of social skills. Oh, and the prospect of finally being able to reconnect with friends is making plenty of folks excited, but also anxious.

Experts In This Article

"As people begin thinking about going back into social situations, many individuals are experiencing high levels of anxiety," says Amy Morin, LCSW and editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind. "They feel as if they've forgotten how to socialize. There's also the fear of not having anything to talk about since most people haven't done much in the past year."

Good news: It will get less awkward, and you'll remember why you used to love leaving your couch. Focusing on the things you enjoy about social interactions as you reconnect with friends can help take the emotional edge off and make you more excited about getting together. "The happy feelings that should accompany social time may spur you to keep talking to friends," Dr. Morin says.

Still, she adds that you may need to push yourself to get out and about at first—even when you don't feel like it—because it may require some extra effort to get back into the habit.  That said, there's a difference between ramping up to a new routine and forcing yourself to do things that don't feel good anymore. Spoiler alert: Socializing with certain people you used to see may fall into this category, energy vampires, and all that.

So, if your interactions feel depleting, Dr. Morin says to take a step back and think about why. "Do you surround yourself with people who drain your energy? Or are you experiencing a mental health issue, like depression, which might try to convince you that you should isolate rather than socialize?" she says. If you're having trouble being around other people, her advice is to consider talking to someone in order to explore the reasons why.

Even under ideal circumstances, the first few times you hang out with friends again may feel foreign. But it's totally worth a couple socially awkward interactions to reconnect with friends because of the rewards that IRL encounters afford. "Spending time with friends is important to good mental health; shared experiences, like eating or watching a show together, help people bond," says Dr. Morin. "And while long-distance conversations can help people connect, they're not a substitute for face-to-face time."

And in all likelihood, once you get back into the flow of things, you'll discover an even greater appreciation for your besties than you felt in the before. "Some people may have learned the value of friendship and [in-person] interactions," Dr. Morin says. "Shared meals and common experiences might not be taken for granted once they're able to happen again." Re-freaking-tweet.

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