Socializing in a Pandemic: How to Safely Re-Enter the Social Circuit

Posted July 6, 2021 | By admin

As vaccination rates increase and summer swings into full gear, it’s likely your social calendar might look fuller than it did a year and some change ago. For some people, being able to see friends and family members in person might feel like a welcome relief. But for others, it may be a task to approach with caution.

How do we navigate seeing our friends and family after a year of virtual meetings and limited in-person socialization? Let’s talk about ways to safely reincorporate regular social visits into our lives.

Discuss the Game Plan

Let’s say one of your close friends calls you and tells you they would love to see you in person soon. Do you know what you would suggest doing or where you would meet? Before discussing plans with others, it may helpful to do some introspection to figure out what you’re comfortable with and uncomfortable with doing.  

One helpful tool is this list of safe, outdoor and indoor activities released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Peruse through the list, jotting down some places to do these activities, like nearby parks, shopping centers, and restaurants where you would feel most comfortable eating. In doing so, you will be prepared to suggest alternative ideas if your friend wants to do something that you’re hesitant to do.

For example, if your friend is set on going to a restaurant with indoor dining and you’re not comfortable with that setting, be prepared with some suggestions for restaurants near you that are doing outdoor seating. By having a list of places and activities you are comfortable with, you’ll be ready to discuss plans with your friend.

If you feel hesitant about socializing indoors, it may be helpful to start with activities that are strictly outdoors, like going on a walk with a friend. This is considered the safest outdoor activity according to the CDC. Another tactic that has helped me before is to set a time limit. Let your friend know up front that you’ll have to leave by a certain time. That way you know you’re only committing to the specific length of time you’re ready for with that friend.

Communicate Your Expectations

Once you’ve made the decision of what you’ll be doing with friends or family, there are a few other details you may want to discuss with your loved ones like:

  1. Is everyone attending vaccinated?
  2. Will people in attendance wear a mask, and should they be worn the entire time?
  3. How comfortable is everyone with hugging or other physical contact?

There may be other questions that come up, depending on your plans, and answers may differ for various social groups. After all, we have different types of relationships in our lives. It’s important to remember and respect that. It’s possible you’ll be open to doing certain activities with some friends and not with others. It may feel okay having an indoor visit with one friend, but prefer going on walks with another, and that’s perfectly fine. Just as we set boundaries for our relationships in other ways, there may be boundaries for what you feel safe doing depending on the friend or relative.

Ultimately, being able to openly communicate with our friends and family is key. If we can talk about what we’re comfortable doing and not doing, getting back in to in-person socialization will be easier for everyone. Friendships are built on trust and respect, and a good friend will understand if you have your limitations on what you are ready to do.

Respect Each Other’s Boundaries

Some of your friends may have stricter boundaries around their comfort level.

It’s important to respect and honor each other’s boundaries and have those conversations, even if it might seem awkward or silly to discuss whether it’s okay to hug when you are already accustomed to embracing your loved ones.  

Speaking from my own personal experience of having these conversations, sometimes it was hard to tell friends I wasn’t ready for hugs or to meet. Once I pushed passed the initial, awkward feeling of telling my friends about what I was or wasn’t comfortable with, all my friends understood and were willing to accommodate what I needed. It also opened the conversation for them to tell me how I could best support them or if they had boundaries. These conversations will get easier with time, leaving everyone involved feeling like they are ready to meet in person.

Having a safe and social time this summer is a possibility. By preparing ahead of time, knowing your own personal limitations, discussing the details, and having open communication with your friends and family members, you’ll be able to feel comfortable seeing each other in person!   

About the Author

Rachel Boggs writes on Social Wellbeing for the Wellbeing Network. Boggs graduated from Rollins College in 2018 with a degree in Communication Studies and Global Health. She lives in sunny Orlando after spending most of her life in rainy Seattle. When she’s not writing about health topics, you can find her thrifting for vintage shirts or having fun at a theme park. 

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