With lockdown easing, our social lives can, theoretically, begin again. In practice, however, it’s not always easy to get back on track with friendships that have been put on hold through more than a year of restrictions.
According to the ONS, loneliness has increased recently, with 7.2% of adults (equivalent to around 3.7 million people) saying they ‘often’ or ‘always’ felt lonely last winter, compared to just 5% in spring 2020.
So what should you do if you’re want to reconnect with friends but you’re not sure where to start?
“I always say: If you reach out to people you’ll be surprised at who reaches back,” says Kim Rutherford, psychotherapist and author of 8 Wise Ways.
The first step is to make contact with friends and, if you feel comfortable, explain that you’ve been having a hard time.
“People don’t know you’re struggling, if you don’t tell them. Most people, when they hear that there’s somebody they care about who is unhappy, will do everything they can to try and change that. Be brave and put yourself back out there.”
Maybe you’re feeling slightly resentful that a friend hasn’t been in contact for a long time. Maybe you’re feeling guilty that you haven’t put in the effort. It can help to address these kinds of issues openly rather than burying your emotions.
“Friendships are just like any other relationship,” Rutherford says. “You have to keep assessing them, and you have to keep analysing them, and you need to be making sure that those relationships are bringing something to your life.
“Just like we would with boyfriends and girlfriends, it’s looking at what is working in this relationship and what isn’t working, and having some open conversations, if we want to try and fix it.”
Get together – and make it fun
Did you start the pandemic excitedly arranging tons of Zoom quizzes and watching movies together online, then swiftly get sick of staring at a screen all the time?
“The problem with social media, it’s not quality time – Zooms aren’t quality time. You need to be in someone’s presence,” Rutherford says.
If you are able meet up in person, she suggests choosing fun activities rather than just dinners or coffee catch ups: “If you start doing things with your friends that are fun, rather than sitting there just chatting about how bad Covid and the pandemic is – which keeps you feeling negative for longer – you’ll be in a better place.
“So start actually planning things that are more fun. Bring that fun element, bring that happiness element, back to the forefront so you look forward to spending time with people again.”
Updated / Saturday, 17 Jul 2021 09:29