Editorial note: The following is a submitted Op/Ed written by Kingston-based speaking, visibility, and confidence coach. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.
As we enter peak summer, our social calendars are likely looking a lot fuller than they have for the past couple of years. For those of us who didn’t mind being hermits all that much, socializing might be feeling exhausting.
The truth is, most of us have been experiencing different levels of stress and trauma since March of 2020 as we navigated things like worry about our jobs, worry about our kids, worry about getting sick, making decisions about vaccines, and trying to figure out what news was true and what was subjective – nevermind some extreme polarization around how to manage during this time.
Maybe you even parted ways with friends over disagreements about the pandemic.
So, it makes total sense that our relatively insular past couple of years might mean we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be social. Or else, maybe socializing before was pretty stressful, but we had nothing to compare it to!
Regardless, there are a few ways that you can ease back into hanging with your pals without feeling like you got hit by a freight truck (talk about polarizing).
1. Limit your social engagements to one per week (or whatever feels comfortable)
Now that everything inside is relatively open and, for those who are still cautious, patios and outdoor activities are open, you might find yourself getting a lot of texts and communications about getting together. And you might even say yes to everything because you genuinely want to see friends and family you’ve been missing!
But then, after night three of seeing friends out on the town, your capacity for small talk has ground down to nothing and you find yourself feeling anxious and craving solitude.
The solution? Find a limit that works for you and once you’ve reached your capacity, schedule into the next week, or the week after. This way, you can spread your activities out and still find time to recharge at home.
2. Set timelines
It might feel weird at first, but if you know that after two hours of talking with a group, you’re ready to camp out under the table, let your buds know that you’ll be good until a certain time. And then, keep that boundary clear when everybody is trying to pull you to stay.
It may not be that way forever, but if you’re easing back into socializing after being blasted with information telling you that being with people could be unsafe, your brain might feel anxious as you get back into the game.
So, setting some timelines ahead of time means everybody knows the plan. And if your friends are pressuring you to stay…
3. Don’t be afraid to ghost
This is also true for situations where you feel unsafe (for example, if you’re uncomfortable being indoors and it starts to rain, and you’re feeling pressure from folks to “just come inside!” when you’re not ready, excuse yourself to the restroom and duck out.)
Make sure to text somebody and let them know you had to bail, but you did not go through the past two+ years only to get pressured into situations that stress you out. Take it easy on yourself and do what’s best for you!
Another way of managing expectations is to chat ahead of time to see where everyone is at, and spend time with people who are on the same page as you. If you aren’t comfortable with indoor dining yet, go to patios with others who feel the same. Same goes for folks who are completely back to normal – it can feel like a push/pull if you want to do stuff that others don’t. As with all things, communication is key!
4. Schedule alone time
If you’re somebody who identifies as an introvert or an ambivert (see Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain for more on this), you likely need some alone, private time to recharge after being out with folks.
Schedule that in! Sometimes life gets so hectic, and we forget to schedule time for ourselves along with time for socializing, errands, meetings, work, house cleaning, etc. My motto is, if it’s not in the calendar, it won’t happen – so make sure it happens.
5. Mix up your activities
If you’re finding that sitting still and talking over beers gives you anxiety after 30 minutes, make sure you mix it up! Suggest going for a walk, or a boat ride (the ferry to Wolfe Island is free and is a great way to catch the gorgeous Kingston skyline and be on the water). Try a hike, or a bike ride, or go for a swim at the Gord Downie Pier. Sometimes socializing while doing another activity takes the pressure off of one-to-one conversations, which can feel intense if you haven’t been engaging in them for a while.
However you’re feeling about socializing, and whatever edge of the spectrum you sit with masks and indoor activities, make sure you are really clear and don’t put pressure on yourself to do stuff you’re not yet ready to do.
Communication is the best way to get out of uncomfortable situations before they begin, and learning how to accept our different viewpoints (provided they’re not deal breakers for you!) ensures we keep our relationships intact and be easy on ourselves.
And the biggest thing to remember? Have fun! We’ve all earned it!
Megan Hamilton is a speaking, visibility, and confidence coach and a small business owner of ubu skills in Kingston, Ontario. She’s also a musician, and enjoys spending time with her husband Ben, their daughter Audrey and their cat and dog, Pom Pom and Winnie, respectively. You can find her at www.ubuskills.com.
Share your views! Submit a Letter to the Editor or an Op/Ed article to Kingstonist’s Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].