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How can I re-learn to be social post-pandemic?

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The lack of social stimulation affects levels of hormones associated with stress and social bonding. One effect may be a greater propensity to depression and paranoia. Prolonged isolation also affects memory and verbal recall. 

We humans are social creatures and need plenty of interactive stimulation to keep the brain in good and functioning order. For some socialising comes naturally, they thrive in big groups, for others it is utterly exhausting and overwhelming. Sitting in a room with another human being is daunting when we have been forced to be anti-social for almost two years. 

The points below apply to socialising both at work and in your personal life. Although seemingly simple, they have worked effectively for me:

  1. Keep it brief to start - If attending social events seems too daunting, just start by saying hello to a colleague in the office, someone in the supermarket or your neighbour passing by. Though it may not seem like much, even brief interactions can help you feel connected to people.
  2. Re-adjust slowly and don’t set high expectations - If you’re more of a one-on-one person, try phoning a friend or colleague and setting up a time for a meet up. You don’t need to a make an elaborate activity for enjoying each other’s company. If there is someone you miss and would like to spend more quality time with, then pick up the phone and make a plan.
  3. Schedule regular activities - Organising some routine activities can help take the stress out of trying to decide what you’re going to do each time. This could involve  having friends over for a weekly games night or signing up for a weekly sports activity with colleagues.
  4. Be a good listener - We all like to feel seen and heard. One of the best and undervalued ways of connecting with others is by thoughtfully listening to what they have to say. Try asking natural follow up questions to show that you’re listening carefully.
  5. Give compliments freely - When in doubt, say something kind. For example telling a colleague that you enjoyed their webinar or presentation. The right words at the right time can make someone’s day significantly better and can also open the door to a conversation. Make sure you’re being sincere.
  6. Say yes more and get involved - If you’re ready to take a step towards putting yourself out there, consider finding a hobby that is social. Participating in activities you enjoy can help alleviate feelings of inadequacy when meeting new people. You already know at least one thing you’ll have in common with others interested in the same activity, whether that be a love for gardening, animals, golf or a passion for political reform.

You may have seen the recent iconic photos of a swimming pool full of people in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began. These photos symbolically exemplify how the world will eventually be able to circle back socially.