For over a year we have followed government advice to stay home and isolate ourselves if we are feeling under the weather. The ‘Covid-way of life’ has now become the new normal and thinking back to a time when people would pack into nightclubs or not wear face coverings seems alien to a lot of us. As we start to emerge from this state of isolation, it seems obvious that tuning back into normal life might be difficult for many of us. It is more complicated than simply switching on our social lives and going to the pub again without thought.
Despite the legal parameters of what we are allowed to do expanding, many people may not feel ready to face this normality yet. After acclimatising to isolating for the sake of those who are vulnerable, there comes a level of concern surrounding unregulated socialising. All of this change can be anxiety-inducing as people feel worried and stressed about getting back out there. Ultimately, this can result in a real clash between our social commitments and our personal boundaries or emotions. In fact, a new wave of ‘Social Guilt’ has been sweeping the country as people try to get used to life post-lockdown. In this context, ‘Social Guilt’ may refer to feeling negative emotions and guilt, as a result of attending public gatherings, going into public spaces, or seeing friends and family. I know there have been times where I have been dining out recently where I have felt guilty for breaking rules that don’t even exist anymore!
So, how do we deal with these confusing emotions as we begin to see our loved ones again and return to work?
When you do socialise, ensure that you are following government guidelines and that you respect the rules of any given establishment. By engaging in activities in a responsible manner, you might be able to alleviate some of the guilt or anxiety you may be feeling.
Vocalise your feelings
Although it may not feel like it, you are not alone in your emotions and there will be lots of other people who are also experiencing anxiety surrounding this topic. Talking to your friends and family can also help them to see your point-of-view on coming out of lockdown and may help assist their understanding of why you don’t want to partake in certain activities.
Don’t rush yourself
And if you still don’t feel ready to return to pre-lockdown life, then don’t rush yourself just yet! Take your time and take it one step at a time. Maybe try pushing yourself to do one small activity a day, or even a week, such as going to the supermarket, or walking to a coffee shop. Little steps will make a big difference!
‘Social Guilt’ seems both inevitable and unavoidable considering the length of time that we have existed in this limbo-state of lockdown. Whilst it may feel that these unsettling emotions will never pass, one day they will lessen, and you will be able to attend a social gathering without those feelings of responsibility and guilt, it may just take time. Time is crucial in any recovery period, whether that be for your physical body, your mental health, or even for a whole country coming out of a pandemic.