With everyone now back in the swing of being back at school, college or university, here’s some tips from Mental Health Counsellor Sheila McMahon (@SheilaMcMahon) on finding your “socialising sweet spot” post Covid.
“Tough times will highlight if a friendship can handle the down side as well as the good,” - mental health counsellor Sheila McMahon, Reg. BACP, FSP, Comedienne and CEO of Mind Management For You, Staffordshire.
After a year and a half of lockdowns, isolations and social distancing it can be difficult to know where the social sweet spot is.
When you have spent a long period of time being used to not being social, that after this time it can become overwhelming for people. Some people are trying to make up for the last 18 months and that can be exhausting.
Even before the pandemic people were alive, but they weren’t really living. Some people were living their lives through ‘shoulds’, going out of their way to please people and finding it very hard to say no, then getting very little thanks for it. As I’ve highlighted previously in my mental health theatre shows: “Some people go out of their way - for people they don’t even like!’
I would encourage you to think about your social life before the pandemic. Were you happy with it then? Ask yourself: ‘How do you want your social life to be. How often do you want to go out during the week? Who do you want to see and how often do you want to see then? Notice I use the words ‘want to see’ and not ‘should I see’.
There has been a positive side for some from this pandemic. It has made some people analyse their life and ask questions about if they were happy with it. It has highlighted how life isn’t a dress rehearsal and that it can be gone very quickly. Sometimes it can be useful to ask yourself: ‘Why am I doing that’, ‘Do I really want to be doing that?’ and ‘Do I have to do that?’. There was a scenario where a friend had forced herself to go somewhere because she didn’t want to let her relative down. During that time, she was yawning all the time because she was so tired. I asked her would her relative want what’s best for her, and she said yes. I encouraged her to be honest.
The flip technique
There is a technique I use in my private practice that I call the flip technique. If someone has an issue, I might encourage them to imagine it from a friends point of view. So, with the example of the relative, I asked her what if it was the other way round? If she wanted to see her relative, and her relative was yawning all the time and obviously very tired, what would she want? Most times people just want honesty and want what is best for you. Sometimes we need to listen to our own needs and if we are not ‘feeling it’, to be able to say no.
I have noticed that a lot of people have reflected on the friendships they had before the pandemic and are unsure if they want to continue them after the pandemic. For some friendships everything can seem fine and look fine until something happens - like the pandemic. When people go through tough times it can highlight other sides of friendships that might be missing, that people now want more of. This could be understanding, not having to play happy friendships all the time and friends that can be emotionally available. This can be very difficult if someone is not in a good place to begin with. If both friends are not in a good place, they can both feel resentful and feel let down by the other friend. It is so important that within our friendships we can openly communicate and talk about when things are not going right or don’t feel right. Tough times will highlight if a friendship can handle the down side as well as the good. Some people are friends with someone just because they have known them for so long but might actually have anything in common now – they may not even like each other! As we get older, we change, some friends change with us and some don’t, it’s nobody’s fault – it’s just different. Sometimes we have to let friendships go for the sake of both people in the friendship. There is a saying that some people find helpful. There are 3 types of friends - Friends there for a reason, Friends there for a season or Friends for a lifetime.
Keeping it real
Some people have loved not having to socialise over the last year and a half. This is about your life and whatever suits you. You can also manage other people expectations like what one business owner did by putting up a sign that reads…
‘Do not enter the office. Please respect my PERSONAL SPACE. Nothing to do with coronavirus – I am just a miserable b#@tard”
It is important to find balance of friendships, work and life, and being aware of doing too much. I would also encourage some social time just for you too. This could be going to café on your own and having some time out in a social environment. It could be going to the gym or for a walk on your own too as sometimes we need to recharge our batteries and don’t have to fill up all our time with others. It really is trial and error till you find the balance of what feels right for you.
Upcoming live theatre show
I am delighted to reveal that I will be returning to the Lichfield Garrick on Saturday 9th Oct 2021 to perform a brand new Mental Health Show. This new show is themed ‘Covid-19’ and is based around the effects of the pandemic on our mental health.
Expect one big group therapy session with laughter and learning. You can book tickets here.