I ask Natasha Tiwari, Award-winning Psychologist and CEO atThe Veda Group, what she makes of our sudden Corona Blow-Out paralysis. Have we really forgotten how to socialise?
“Three months in lockdown have had profound impacts on how we understand our social circles and our social needs. People saying they don’t “know how to socialise anymore”, often actually mean that they have really enjoyed discovering their inner homebody, and maybe even their inner introvert,” she says, “You may find that outside of the obligation of social necessities, and with some emotional and physical space, you’re also questioning their lifestyles and friendships, and making decisions about what living authentically truly means to you.”
Of course, we can’t discount the fact that we have a genuine reason for our increased nervousness.
“The UK is still one of the most affected countries by the coronavirus!” Natasha reminds me, when I worry I am becoming a party pooper, “It is entirely normal to feel as if socialising is a threat to your health. The threat may be perceived unconsciously, but this will manifest in an apprehensiveness around getting out and about and being around lots of people.”
In our eagerness to return to normal we have forgotten that, actually, ‘normal’ isn’t here yet. The virus isn’t over, just because we’re over it.
“Listen to your emotions. Your emotions are your body’s intelligence and you should use them as data to make decisions,” advises Natasha, “If you don’t find yourself feeling thrilled to do something that was previously exciting, stay home. Socialise in ways which make you feel happy and excited, not anxious, stressed and obligated. This may mean choosing smaller gatherings, choosing to be outside rather than inside together, or even choosing not to drink (as this will likely lower your inhibitions about social distancing and leave you with guilt the next day). Making empowered decisions based on what makes you feel safe and comfortable is also self care.”
For months now, we have all been whining about wanting to socialise, complaining about the entrapment of lockdown and how much we want a party.
We’ve all felt it, that desire to break free, feel liberated and finally have some FUN again.
But, the thing is…it’s sort of creeping up on us now. With groups allowed to meet outside and in gardens, with shopping back, with pubs and restaurants opening up in just under a month’s time and with many people already bending the rules to party (you know who you are)- we should be happy, right?
So, why is it so many of us are…not?
“I went to the park on Saturday with a group for the first time and I lost my mind,” says Carli Men, 30, a music manager from London, “I got extremely drunk, I smoked cigarettes- and I don’t even smoke. I’m not even sure what happened to the social distancing. It’s all a blur.”
And how did she feel the next day?
“Awful, like the worst kind of hungover,” she says, “You know how you normally get a weird guilt after a big drunken night? This was worse, because of Covid, I just felt horrendously guilty and paranoid. When I’m hungover, I always say ridiculous things like- I feel I’m going to die, I’m never going out again- but partying in a time like this- you genuinely feel like that might happen.”
I’ve seen this trickle into many of my social interactions. When faced with the reality of meeting up, many of my friends are demurring.
“I actually just feel a little scared about meeting up right now,” said one of my friends a few weeks ago, “Is it OK if I cancel?”
Just the week before, she had been pleading to go out and party. But the logistics, the new nervous energy that now infuses socialising in an age of Corona, is not to be taken lightly.
A new study, ‘Lessons from Lockdown’ by the London-based agency Republic, carried out a few weeks ago, found that are becoming the isolation generation – or IsoGen – which is more likely to suffer higher levels of anxiety and be more worried about our mental health at this time. The study showed that uncertainty about life post lockdown is at its highest among young people; 52% of 18-34-year-olds have suffered anxiety at this time, and 25% say their mental health has been affected.
I’ve felt it myself, a sort of apprehension that fills my park picnics and garden hangs. I’m afraid to get too drunk, to totally relax- to actually let myself go and have fun. Because it I let pre-lockdown me out? Goodbye social distancing. Farewell feeling safe. Any comfort I have derived from trying to protect myself and others at this time will disappear.
She came out last weekend and, much like Carli, I felt a lingering, awful sense of guilt afterwards unlike any hangover feeling of unease I have ever experienced. I messaged the three friends I met with in desperation- what did I do? Are we all still safe? I wasn’t worried I had embarrassed myself, more that I had endangered myself, and others.
This happened to a colleague of a friend recently, who kindly shared her story, but would prefer to remain anonymous. She tells me she thinks she has- and I quote “forgotten how to socialise properly.”
This is what happened to her two weeks ago.
“It was my first big meet up with people. We decided to do a socially distanced hangout in the park,” she says, “It started really civilised, but I felt weird almost straight away- that many people all at once after months by myself felt scary. I started drinking more than I normally would and before I knew it, I was almost two bottles of wine down and barely eating anything. I was steaming drunk and suddenly was not observing any rules, I went a bit mad.”
She then invited people back to her flat, drank more and called a dealer to pick up some weed.
“I then went back to my flat and partied more. I woke up and had so many friends in my flat. I felt so horrible.”
The result of her first foray into the post-corona blow out has left her wanting to go back into lockdown.
“What the hell was I thinking?” she tells me, “I think after so much time cooped up I just went a bit mad. I feel like I have spent the last few days just trying to apologise to people and figure out what went wrong. It wasn’t like me at all. It’s made me want to stay at home again!”
I guess the best thing we can do right now, is be kind to ourselves and others, and recognise that we may need to take baby steps back to our old social life.
As much as we may want it back, our old social life is not back yet and so, pre-lockdown me may take a while to really find her party feet again.