Whether you consider yourself an introvert or not, the last several years of living on earth have changed us.
As we continue to adapt to our new normal and start to go out and socialize again, it takes more energy than it did before.
Things seem slow and fast all at the same time.
As we begin to socialize you may notice that your social skills have atrophied…what do I mean exactly? Let me explain:
Usually, when talking about “atrophy” we are referring to our muscles/organs/etc. decreasing in size. But what if you applied that same concept to mental health and socialization?
Since COVID-19, after months and years of isolation, our social skills aren’t what they used to be. Any type of socialization takes SO MUCH MORE EFFORT AND ENERGY.
My Personal Embarrassment
The first time we had friends over post covid lockdown, we had dinner.
We chatted as things finished cooking, then all sat down and ate.
About halfway through, one of our more extroverted friends got up and asked us all if we wanted a drink.
Something as simple as offering our guests a drink had completely flown out the window!
We were so embarrassed. Thankfully we have great friends and now it’s become a joke.
I’ve purposely been putting myself in uncomfortable or new situations (especially social) and let me tell you–my social skills continue to show atrophy.
How to Overcome Social Atrophy
#1: Take small steps
Don’t do what I did the last few months or you’ll be hating life.
What’s the easiest step you can take?
Maybe it’s coffee with a friend or a small group movie night. Or maybe it’s just a quick walk around the block while talking on the phone.
There are no rules here, so meet yourself where you are at.
You don’t have to start by scheduling yourself to go to a huge party and traumatizing yourself.
#2: Schedule rest and recovery
When you’re looking at your week, month, etc. decide ahead of time how many social activities you want to commit to. This will help ensure you don’t end up scheduling something every day like I did 🤦🏼♂️
You know yourself best, so schedule however much time you need to rest and recover. I’m the type of person who needs crazy amounts of rest and downtime. Don’t be afraid of being “selfish” with YOUR time because we all have different requirements–and yours may not match up with the other people in your life.
#3: evaluate & proceed without shame or judgment
Step 3 is probably the hardest. If we wear ourselves out, it’s a quick slip into shame and judgment.
When evaluating how your experiment is going, notice what you feel in your body. Let your body be the indicator of where you’re at, not your brain.
If you do fall into shame, judgment, or any other emotion, don’t fight or resist it. It’s there for a reason–what’s the message it has for you? How could it be possible that these feelings are just there to remind you of all the social conditioning that’s been thrown at us? Start to recognize the patterns in your thoughts (repeat words or sentences) and then question the hell out of them.
Remember, our emotions are not a problem–it’s the actions we take from them that become the problem (aka hide, beat yourself up, compare yourself with others, etc.).
#4: find your own unique way
When I first started putting myself out there to find more connections after COVID, I stopped looking at how I’d done it in the past.
What’s the easiest way to start making connections?
For me, it was downloading a social app and starting conversations (yes, friendship apps exist and are full of incredible people!). I didn’t leave my couch for the first few weeks.
I don’t know if the social app route is the direction to take, but ask yourself how you can create connections in an easy and simple way that feels good to you.
When I say “feel good,” please do not misunderstand–I was still anxious….but there was also a tinge of excitement. Even if you still feel anxious (or any other emotion), tune into your body to see what other emotions are on the dancefloor and how they mingle together.
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