Dear Therapist

After months of social distancing and lockdowns I think I have lost all social skills and have complete anxiety about how I will handle myself when I am finally allowed out in the world again. I am excited to reunite with friends but worry is getting the better of me in the meanwhile. Help!

Dear Worried,

We have all been locked away for the better part of a year. Our social skills have been challenged – and in some cases exhausted – by all of the effort needed to maintain social connections online. It has been intense to stare at each other face-to-face for every encounter. We have been left without all of the usual gestures and non-verbal cues so our brains have had to work harder to read every situation. There has also been the constant 'mirror' of a tiny self-view window vying for our (critical) attention. The whole process, repeatedly, has been pretty emotionally draining so no wonder that some of us are feeling an element of social anxiety now more than previously. But remember: Zoom is not the real world. 

Socialising at its best happens when we are open and available to whatever transpires in the presence of others. We can’t enjoy their company and feel the comfort of connection if we are lost in our own heads, whether worrying what might happen, planning what should or judging what does. Can we take away any pressures or pretence that we need to show up as our 'best selves' and instead keep our intentions simple but sweet, enjoying freedoms lost over the last year: the pleasure of the other's face not obscured by a screen, a hot beverage or meal prepared by someone else, the sound of laughter, the warmth of the spring sun...

Never fear, our social skills needed for the outside world are not lost, they are just a bit out of practice. We need to go easy on ourselves, allowing time and space to readjust. Keep in mind, we’ve already done the hardest part – altering our entire way of living and working to accommodate the pandemic. A pretty amazing example of the human capacity to adapt! Now is time for the gentle return to what is, after all, our far more usual, habitual and ultimately easeful way of engaging. 


Do you have a question for Dear Therapist? Send it to [email protected] with Dear Therapist in the subject line and Charlotte Fox Weber or Kelly Hearn will get back to you.

Further reading

Are you feeling better in lockdown?

How has life changed under lockdown?

6 ways to nurture your friendships

Is it the anxiety about anxiety that's making us anxious?

Are friends more important than lovers?