How to get back into the swing of your social life after lockdown

With COVID-19 restrictions easing across most of Australia, your calendar may be quickly filling up. But don’t panic if the idea of socialising is leaving you feeling uneasy.

While many have warmly welcomed a return to “normal” life, particularly in Melbourne, the sudden onslaught of get-togethers has left more than a few people feeling socially awkward, anxious or just exhausted.

But don’t despair if you’re finding the sudden changes to your social life difficult.

Psychologists say it’s just a natural part of adjusting – again – in what’s already been an extremely challenging year.

We’re adaptable creatures, but…

“We’re really good at adjusting to what’s available to us in our environment,” says Dr Nicholas Van Dam, a senior lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Melbourne.

“So despite the fact that lots of people complained and griped and said how horrible the lockdown was, by and large we figured out ways to make our lives enjoyable and rewarding.”

Now, of course, the rules of engagement have shifted once more.

“I think the reality is even though nobody necessarily loved it (lockdown), we all adjusted to some extent, and now we’re having to adjust again,” says Dr Van Dam.

Added pressures of post-lockdown life

There are also extra hurdles to our new non-Zoom social lives, such as needing to plan well in advance, and sticking to time restrictions.

“Many people are eager to get back and talk to people but there’s all these added rules on top of what we can do and it requires that much more energy,” says Dr Van Dam, noting that may be particularly draining for introverts.

Then, there’s that uncomfortable feeling that we’re doing the wrong thing.

“For a lot of people I think there’s this element of, is this actually OK, is it alright to be out and about around people?” says Dr Van Dam.

Best ways to ease back into socialising

Take baby steps

There’s no harm in pacing yourself as you return to a social life, says Dr Van Dam. 

“Going from absolutely nothing for several months to all of a sudden having multiple social outings on one weekend, back to back to back, is probably too much for most people,” he says.

So allow yourself some downtime in-between events while you adjust.

Remember you can say no

There’s also no harm in declining invitations, says Carl Nelms, a registered psychologist and the founder of Blokes Psychology.

For those of us who do have a lot of invites coming our way, we’d be exhausted if we said yes to everything,” he says.

“Also question why you’re saying yes … is it FOMO (fear of missing out) or do you genuinely want to go and connect with these people and do that thing?”

Plan an activity

Carl says organising an activity can be a good way to ease back in because it helps takes the pressure off and gives you something to talk about.

I think that’s a big one for the blokes, actually just doing something with your mates instead of just catching up for a beer,” he says.

That could include going for a hike or a ride with a friend, playing a round of golf, or anything else that floats your boat.

But don’t worry if conversations are stilted, says Dr Van Dam.

“It’s not a big deal if you don’t have a lot to say,” he says.

Try to be understanding

Meanwhile, don’t forget that some people will take more time to adjust and adapt – and that’s OK.

So try not to put too much pressure on friends or family, says Dr Van Dam.

“Even for people who are really extroverted, and really are excited to see people, the challenge of coordinating multiple events on a weekend is really a lot.”

More tips:

Written by Larissa Ham