Over the months, COVID has become a blanket word, the kind of thing you throw over a sofa to cover the worn-out places. After COVID, the lockdowns, and the losses, many of us have learned that being social just ain’t what it used to be. We have to make an extra effort to get out there.
However, studies show that we need a little “health” from our friends. I was reading a recent article on this topic, and a few things jumped out at me. I thought I’d share those with you.
● Did you know that 59% of us now find it more difficult to form relationships since COVID, compared with 13% who find it easier?
● Called on to socialize with friends or family you haven’t seen in a while? More than 25% of us get anxious around others, while another 20% are downright scared.
● Meeting new people? Anxiousness plagues 62% of adults who meet strangers.
● Feeling down? Isolation is an issue for 56% of us, and 29% are feeling depressed.
Let that sink in. People are afraid of their friends, their families, and their social network.
How about you? When you go out into the world these days, how does it feel? Do you ever
● Not know what to say or how to interact with others
● Worry that you’ll embarrass yourself or make others uncomfortable
● Think you’ll “put your foot in your mouth?” (say the wrong thing)
For most of us, these feelings are annoying when they come up. We can usually get past them.
But some cases are more severe. Social anxiety disorder is more common since COVID. When someone struggles with SAD, they are extremely self-conscious to the point of being afraid. They are afraid of strangers and of being judged. Also, they worry that whatever they do will be embarrassing or humiliating. Their feelings are so intense, work, school, and life will suffer as a result.
Of course, people who are nervous and anxious do not necessarily have SAD. But as we are rebuilding our post-COVID worlds, it’s more important than ever to be patient and take steps to restore our healthy relationships with others as well as ourselves.
Now is the time to reach out to friends and family and share feelings. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and drink plenty of water. If you need more support, seek it out. No matter what, give yourself permission to do things that bring you joy.
What brings me joy? One of my favorite things to do is go to rock concerts with my son, Will. We share a love of music. Before COVID, we went to see Elton John. It was a blast to remember when both rock and I were young!
Since then, our opportunities to attend music concerts at venues or festivals have been more limited. But music is one of our connections as a family, and it makes us happy. It’s going back on the to-do list in our near future (I’ll keep you posted!)
Starting now, I’m making more time for joy! I’m also going to make more time for friends, whether we’re hanging out or talking on the phone or hanging out by the lake.
I want you to reach out to your friends, too.
Science tells us that a good social support network can help you maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugar, improve odds of cancer survival, decrease cardio-vascular disease, decrease symptoms of depression, and improve mental health. (American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine)
Experience tells us that living a good life is a lot easier when you are surrounded by good people. Choose to live a little. Dance in a supermarket. Receive joy. Write a letter. Express gratitude. Ride a bike - or a horse. And invite someone you love to join you.
After all, we really do get by with a little health from our friends.