With Fourth of July weekend coming up, I thought this might be a good chance to write a little bit about easing ourselves back into social situations – especially the crowded ones, like parties, parades, or fireworks displays. I’m not going to give you health advice here because I am not that kind of doctor — my personal stance is to continue following the CDC guidelines regarding how and when it’s safe to be around others given my vaccination status. Instead, I think it’s worth taking some time to reflect on how you feel about being back in larger gatherings (if that’s something you’re doing now). I have noticed that one of the effects of the social isolation I’ve experienced throughout the pandemic is that I now have less willingness to be around people. Have you noticed any changes in your social habits or interest in socialization since the pandemic began?
My lowered interest in socializing and going out is confusing to deal with because I very much love being around people, and I can tell that not having as much social interaction has definitely taken a toll on my mental health. At the same time, I am a creature of habit and I think I’ve simply gotten out of the habit of being around people. [Incidentally, I have also gotten out of the habit of being willing to put on real pants, but that’s a problem for another day.] On top of that, it wasn’t safe to be around people for a long time, so even though things are starting to loosen up, there is still this lingering doubt in my mind about whether I’m doing the responsible thing for myself and others. If you struggle with making decisions about attending gatherings, it may help to simply practice sitting with your discomfort or uncertainty for a little while – those feelings are functional – they are designed to protect you from danger, so it can be helpful to pay attention to them. You can also try to ground yourself in your own stance on what you are and are not willing to participate in. If you are invited to a gathering that doesn’t fit what you feel comfortable with, work on finding a different way of connecting with those people so that you still get to enjoy your social connections and feel included. On the other hand, if the gathering is safe to attend, it might be helpful to reflect on what else might be getting in the way for you and whether that is something you want to hold onto or let go of.