I feel the sun’s warmth on my face as I walk to the shops. It’s such a simple action and yet I feel invigorated as my limbs move purposefully along the pavement. I feel free.
Like most of us, I’ve spent most of the last year in one place. I’ve had walks in the countryside by myself or with my partner. I’ve gone to work weekdays (a couple minutes away). I’ve exercised in my courtyard. Otherwise, I’ve been here; indoors, at home. I’ve even had my groceries come to me.
Having the first bit of sunshine after Covid restrictions lift is like a godsend. It’s a reminder that the world is still alive and kicking.
For the most part, I won’t change many of my actions, but the simple act of popping to the shop is amazing. I have a sense of independence and awakening. Despite regular exercise and meditation my limbs and soul ache for this.
Things are changing.
I think of the small list of things I crave. A meal in the garden of my partner’s Mum’s house, a live kickboxing class and a sunny pub garden with some old friends. I can’t wait until I can do these things. I know that they’ll fill my cup.
But there’s also a hesitancy. There is one thing all of these things have in common. People.
I’m an introvert at heart and although I have an enormous love for people, I do feel drained if I spend too much time around too many people. I like solitude. I used to have a good balance of solitude and socialising, but I realise I might have to find it all over again.
As someone who used to suffer with boundaries, I know I need to pay close attention to my needs. I know that I’m at my best for others when I take care of myself. I also know that I can’t be the only one who needs this reminder so I’m sharing what’s helped me in the past. Here are five essentials to help you get through invitations, social anxiety and seeing people again.
- Choose Wisely
When the invites for BBQs, picnics, parties and pub visits start to come in, make sure you choose wisely. Check your calendar and make sure you don’t have too many outings all at once. If you get invites for multiple things in a weekend, consider if you really want to do all of them. It’s OK to say no. If it’s too much, politely decline and invite your friend or family member to something the following weekend. They would much rather spend time with you when you have energy and feel great about seeing them.
2. Book Time to Recover
We’ve all been there…a mad weekend of events where you’ve hopped from one thing to the next. Maybe you crash on your sofa at 6pm on Sunday and wonder where the weekend has gone. You’re drained and you already feel anxious about the week ahead. Instead of feeling this dread, book some time for yourself or with your partner after a social event. Having some down-time is key to unwinding. Maybe it’s a walk in the countryside or maybe it’s just hunkering down with a good book. Make sure you have that time to re-fuel. It will help prevent those anxious feelings creeping in.
3. Understand What Fuels You
Booking time to recover is key but what if you don’t know what to do in that time? This is huge. So many of us think that just plonking on the sofa with a film is refuelling but a lot of the time it’s not. Sometimes it’s just a busy distraction. Start making a list of things that fuel your energy and things that drain your energy. Do this over a week or so whilst you think of things. You may find that watching a film gives you energy but binging for 4 hours in front of the T.V. drains your energy. There’s no right or wrong. Everyone is different and is fuelled by different things. Find out what is best for you and use this list when you need to re-charge.
4. Know Your Limits
We already said that too many events can lead to a crash of energy but what about the type of events? Going to a work picnic where you have to make conversation with lots of people uses very different energy to a countryside walk with a parent. Consider this when you’re planning meeting up with people. For me, the go-to for friends used to always be the pub. Whilst I still love doing this from time-to-time, I sometimes ask my friends if they’re happy to do something else. A walk, bike-ride, jog, picnic etc. If that feels more like your vibe, offer that as a compromise to a pub outing. Who says you can’t have a drink after if you’re in the mood?
5. Setting Boundaries
All of the above are a form of setting boundaries. If you’re someone who is used to saying yes to everything all of the time, then it’s hard to transition to a place where you consider your own needs. I know, I’ve been there. I’m a recovering people-pleaser and I spent so many years following other people’s plans. The above tips are really gentle ways to start transitioning out of that “yes” mentality to “yes, but” or sometimes even a “no”. But this doesn’t always work. Sometimes you feel intense pressure to say yes or you have family and friends who pester you for your time. First, realise that they mean well. They love you and they want to spend time with you, simple as that. Second, realise that there might be tension between you because they don’t realise how you feel. If it’s someone you really trust, consider having that conversation with them. Being open about your feelings is so often received with compassion. We don’t always give our friends and family credit for this. Explain to them that you love spending time with them but you also find juggling social commitments with everyday life difficult sometimes. You find that if you over-do it, you feel drained. You’re working on learning the balance and boundaries that you need and you’d love their support. This is where you can practice the tip from number 1 and say no to one event but offer an alternative.
Over the years, I have gone from a place of exhaustive people-pleasing, massive social anxiety and over-drinking to compensate, to a place of calm acceptance for who I am and how to take care of that. I love spending time with the people I care about and now I know exactly how I can do it in a way that helps fuel everyone. I have the best relationships of my life. Yes, it takes practice, but it does get easier. There is no better time than now to start considering your needs and loving the time you spend with people you care about.
*For anyone who doesn’t follow me on social media, Broc’s my loveable health champion.