I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say the pandemic has wreaked havoc on their social battery. Before the pandemic, I was decently outgoing and loved going out at night with friends, but after a couple of months in, I hit introverted territory very quickly — and now, after nearly two years into this strange period of time, I have reached full hermit status.
The idea of being outside past 9:00 pm is honestly daunting, knowing that I won’t be able to follow the routine I have kept up for the past 19 months. This has turned me into a serial canceler of plans, for another repeat of the same night under the covers doing school readings, writing an essay, or watching Netflix if I was lucky enough to have the free time.
But recently, I decided enough was enough. While following my routine of solitude was comfortable, I don’t think it was serving my well-being in any way, and I needed to get back to living my life again.
This past month, I’ve gone to great lengths to plan multiple outings for myself a week, going with an all-in approach. This includes weekly participation in some form of weekend nightlife, which is something I’ve absolutely strained away from for the past two years.
After the first few weeks of the pandemic when certain things like drinking felt like a novelty, I really cut back on my alcohol intake, making nightlife seem very unenjoyable. But easing back into it these past few weeks, I’ve very much found a healthy balance when it comes to drinking. I know my limits so that I can still maintain some structure of routine the next day, and I’ve even managed to find drinks that I like that aren’t astronomically expensive or make me feel sick. All in all, these past few weeks have reframed the experience of going out for me and has made it something I very much enjoy and feel like I have control of.
Some other activities I have participated in over the past month that have pushed me out of my comfort zone include going on a series of first dates. I think first dates are a great way to challenge yourself by pulling you out of your comfort zone, and are also an incredible way to build up your self-confidence and social skills. The reason for this being that going out with a near stranger can be quite intimidating, however, you are only going to get better at them with practice. Needless to say, not all of these dates were a success, but either way, I still think they were very productive, while also being an enjoyable reason to dress up and make myself look presentable.
Another great activity I have begun in the past few weeks is taking up pole dancing. I grew up as a dancer but quit back in 2018, and have missed it very much ever since. I have always wanted to return to dance in some capacity, and after watching how incredibly strong and fit pole dancers are on Youtube, I was dying to try a class.
Unfortunately, I did not act on this interest in trying out a class for probably two years, as it was out of my comfort zone, and simply too much effort to find a class that fit in my schedule. Then last month, I said “No, screw it, when is there going to be a better time than right now to start?” So I registered for an intro level class and have not regretted my decision since.
Every Monday night, I attend my dance class with three other women and a lovely teacher. We all have a great deal of fun, laughing at ourselves as we fail a trick miserably, and also congratulating each other when we finally get a move right. Implementing this class into my weekly schedule was a great decision, as it gives me something to look forward to every week and always starts my week off on the right foot!
In summary, forcing myself to go out no matter what has very much improved my mental health. The act of spending time with people and actually doing things has made me think a lot less about myself, which is very important. While I think it’s important to have time to recharge and get to know yourself, I think too much time spent in your head can be counterintuitive.
Additionally, I found that although I now do have less time to work because of going out and socializing more frequently, the time I do spend working is now a lot more productive and meaningful, as I have much more motivation to complete it. By giving myself less available time to do school work, I found my desire to procrastinate going away, which is honestly something I would never have imagined happening and is one of the best outcomes of this experience.
With all of this being said, the past nearly two years have been incredibly difficult for many, and while isolating from one another was the proper thing to do, it came at a price. But now that the world is beginning to re-open again, if you are struggling to re-engage with society, I definitely suggest you make an effort to re-integrate socially by coming up with a couple of activities a week to participate in as I did, and I can guarantee you will not regret it.