Not ready to rush back into life pre-pandemic? Do what feels right for you
It’s safe to assume that over the coming months and years much will be documented about the impact the pandemic has had on our lives.
Clearly, the loss of life should, and will, feature highest here, but I’m willing to bet that as we settle into our ‘new normal’ we may well find that we’re struggling with just how to reconnect to those around us and how to re-establish our friendships.
What connection really means
The definition of the word connection, states that it is a ‘relationship in which a person or thing is linked or associated with something else.’ Brené Brown goes deeper when she defines it ‘as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship’.
We are each wired for connection. From the moment we are born, we need it to thrive emotionally, intellectually and physically. It has become the buzzword of recent years, with good reason, as we were forced to disconnect from our friendships and even our families and left to rely on technology to make us feel somewhat, albeit artificially, connected.
The pandemic has driven a significant wedge in many of our friendships. The social distancing measures, the ceasing of social get-togethers, working from home, travel restrictions and the varying levels of personal health issues, have made it almost impossible to invest the hours needed to maintain and nurture our important friendships.
Which friendships could suffer
Some of our more solid friendships, will, of course, stand the test of time. Those that benefit from already having a good foundation will know that when the world opens up again, the muscle memories involved will quickly get reactivated and it will feel just like old times again.
But what about the newer, younger and more recent friendships; those important connections we make at the school gates, in the office, at our gym or even in our hairdressers? They will most definitely flounder and suffer from our absence.
Nobody wanted these restrictions in the first place, but once they were in place, some of us adapted quicker and better than others. I for one relished the easing of the pressure to always be somewhere else, do something else or see someone else. I honestly found it very freeing, and the space to properly pause and breathe felt incredibly liberating.
All that being said, I really missed my friends. I missed our dinners, our face-to-face catch-ups, the chats and the raucous, belly-aching laughter and so I felt more than ready to reclaim that part of my life. But what’s been interesting these past few weeks as the restrictions have started to be lifted is that many of us are now faced with the reality that spending time with others wasn’t as effortless as it once was.
Some of us might even feel a little more socially awkward than we once were and the effort required to rebuild those connections could just feel like too much hard work.
What to do next
Remember that you aren’t alone in how you’re feeling. It most definitely is not just you. We’re all feeling more than a little nervous and socially awkward now. Two years is quite a long time to have been separated, so ease your way back into it. Start with a walk, a coffee, a lunch before you dive headfirst into a weekend of carousing!
While some friendships can indeed be high maintenance (we all have that friend, don’t we, and if you can’t think who it is, that might be because it’s you), I’d ask you to be mindful that possibly, they’re battling their own demons right now, so try and be a little more patient with everyone.
Remind yourself as to why it was that you became friends in the first place. Was it because they made you laugh? Were they kind? Or did you share a common interest? Whatever that reason, it’s most likely still there and you just need to familiarise yourself with it, and them, once again.
Give yourself a break and be compassionate with yourself as well as with your friends. If your time together doesn’t quite feel the same or lacks the same energy as it did before, you might simply need a little time to warm up again in the socialising department.
We’re all capable of navigating our way through this. It really doesn’t mean that anything is broken, or that something is wrong with us, or with how we are showing up in our friendships, it’s just us adapting to yet another stage in our lives.
The fact that all of our friendships were interrupted quite suddenly may leave you feeling that you need to resume all of them at the same now. This can really feel more than a little overwhelming, both to your now full schedule not to mention your nervous system.
Instead, try and think about who it is you want to spend time with right now. Maybe you’re not up for a booze-filled night out with a large group of your pals, but rather a one-on-one over lunch might seem far more appealing. Do what feels right for you. Start where you feel most comfortable and you’ll be far more excited about your reunions.
I’ve communicated my worries with my friends and those that matter understand. They know I miss them; they know I can’t wait to hug them and laugh with them, just like we always did. But they know that if we have waited two years to do this again, we can wait just a little bit longer.
That’s how I know I’ve got the right friends in my life and not even a pandemic can disrupt that!
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Writer. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh is currently accepting applications for her 2022 The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme. She is also host of the TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or visit niamhennis.com.
Photography by HBO.