So many of us are struggling with the thought of getting out and about as lockdown restrictions lift. Maybe the answer is SLOSO - a purposefully slow return to socialising?
There was FOMO (fear of missing out), then there was JOMO (joy of missing out) and now as we work our way through the latest ease in lockdown restrictions, there’s SLOSO (a slow return to socialising).
We’re not wholly serious about SLOSO, but here at Happiful we’ve been wracking our brains to find a succinct term to describe and manage the way so many of us are feeling about going out and sharing more time with others (albeit in a socially distanced, outdoors and fully masked-up manner).
It’s a hard feeling to sum up easily. That’s because there’s no playbook for what we’re experiencing - a gradual reintroduction back into a ‘normal’ way of living and being, when the past year has shown us that what we perceive as ‘normal’ can be flipped upside down in a matter of weeks.
It’s understandable that some of us might feel like we could be tempting fate - or a third wave - by changing our behaviour now.
We’ve spent so long processing the pandemic and government advice. We’ve taken on board the life or death levels of importance of staying home and staying away from others, so it’s understandable that some of us might feel like we could be tempting fate - or a third wave - by changing our behaviour now.
On the other hand, we've also been waiting for a time when staying indoors isn't mandatory and when we can have a bit more choice about what we do on a daily basis. And if the same people who told us to stay in, are now saying it's ok to venture out in a measured way, surely that's good enough - isn't it?
This inner conflict around changing our way of being is just one of the reasons that it might be good to adopt a 'SLOSO' approach. It's important to have self-compassion if socialising doesn't feel quite as easy as you thought it would when it was a far-away hope in the dead of winter.
You don't have to be definitive about anything right now, because uncertainty has become the norm.
So, acknowledge that your inner conflict exists and embrace the duality of your feelings. Know that it’s ok to want the opportunity to have a natter with a friend over a coffee, sitting outside your favourite cafe AND feel like you want to be at home where you know you’re safe and secure. You can be excited about taming your tresses at your local salon AND have deep anxiety at the thought of sitting in a room with other people doing the same. You don't have to be definitive about anything right now, because uncertainty has become the norm.
Not everyone will feel the same
There’s simply no right or wrong way to feel about moving forward from what has now been a long stretch in relative isolation, to spending time in other people’s company.
It’s also worth remembering that so many of us will feel differently to our loved ones about our collective new-found freedoms. You may have family and friends who are merrily making plans to meet people, shop and eat out day after day, while you're popping in a few short park and garden catch ups at the end of the working week as something to (tentatively) look forward to. That's ok! Embrace the SLOSO.
Incorporating SLOSO into your life
While we created SLOSO with our tongues placed firmly in our cheeks, maybe there’s something in taking a purposefully gentle approach to acclimatise yourself back into your social circles?
Some SLOSO tips
Firstly, what do you really want to get out and do? Just because the pubs and shops are open, it doesn’t mean that you have to go out and drink and buy just because you can. Maybe you fancy a browse in your local bookshop, library or a swim at your local pool? Book it in and give yourself something to look forward to.
Take your first few trips out alone. See how it feels, what you enjoy and what makes you feel uncomfortable. Reflect back after each trip out and then do more of what you liked next time, and question how you could change or modify the aspects that made you feel anxious.
Head for open space! Make plans to meet friends in parks and out in nature so that you can have plenty of room around you.
Set expectations before you meet with friends and family, especially if they feel differently to you about being out and about. Maybe share in advance if you'd prefer to stay away from shops or pubs and let them know that you may leave a little early if it feels too much for the moment.
Continue to embrace technology! You can mix it up. A coffee in person one weekend, a glass of wine over Zoom the next.
Book time in your diary to zone out after socialising. Switch your phone off, take a bath, read a book, get an early night. There's always tomorrow.
Read about Post Covid Stress and if you feel that you need professional help with the emotions and fears you're experiencing, consider looking for a therapist to support you. You can also call the Samaritans on 116 123, or email email@example.com 24-hours a day, 7 days a week for free or text the SHOUT helpline around the clock on 85258.
Find the right counsellor for you, when you're ready, at Counselling Directory.
Lead image courtesy of Monica Di Loxley on Unsplash