With the pandemic, quarantine, social distancing, and Netflix, for some people it's easy to stay in a bubble. For a lot of people, it feels pretty good too...relaxing and low stress. It's also pretty easy to stay in touch over text and social media. For others, however, it feels lonely, depressing, and/or boring.
No matter how introverted or extroverted you are, socializing and building relationships is really important to your mental, emotional, and physical health. It is really important for beating anxiety. Digital connections, by themselves, have been shown to be far more superficial (surface level) than in-person connections. This means it is hard to develop deep relationships and receive meaningful support virtually.
Humans are 'social beings.' We are biologically programmed to work together, as in the original tribal communities. Hanging out with friends generally lowers stress, decreases loneliness, is enjoyable, and promotes feelings of safety and belonging.
The Yo-Yo Effect (on socialization)
Our bodies need food to survive. When we restrict food too heavily, our body tries to respond appropriately by consuming less energy. Heavily restrictive diets usually don't work in the long run, as it requires putting our body through a lot of unnatural frustration, which can have the long term effect of causing us to gain back weight suddenly and rapidly later on.
I used this analogy to explain some of what I am seeing in our country with socialization. This is not a research-backed observation, simply my own. What I have noticed is that after a period of quarantine, when we are allowed to socialize again, some people have been quick to go in the exact opposite direction...having large gatherings, not social distancing properly, and returning to normal activities without adequate safeguards in place. Hence, the yo-yo effect on socialization. I recommend finding ways to continue socializing safely, which we will cover in great detail further on. Choosing a few safe social interactions could help you not suddenly make a rash or unsafe social decision.
Family Discussion/Journal Activity
1. If possible, have a discussion with your family to brainstorm ways you can be social safely. This could include a few guests in your backyard with masks, sitting 6' apart; a socially distanced walk; and/or taking individual picnic blankets to a park and putting them at least 6' apart to hang out. Discuss your family's unique risk tolerance, as each family has a different set of circumstances.
2. Journal ideas for how you could socialize with your friends more regularly. Set a goal for socializing. For example, "By this weekend, I will make a plan to see one friend for a weekly walk in our neighborhood." Make it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART)!