2020. The year of the pandemic. The year of social distance and quarantine. Businesses shut down, schools went to virtual learning, and everyone stayed home. We were isolated and reclusive. The only place that was overflowing with workers and people were the hospitals, and that was the last place anyone wanted to be during this time.
As we are opening the doors for society to resume normalcy, are we really ever going to be “back to normal”? The masks are coming off, and we are seeing people smile again. That’s normal. Large groups are gathering for ceremonies and events again. That’s normal. Businesses and schools are open without restrictions. That’s normal.
What about us? The people. How are we handling this return to normal? Sure, we are enjoying shopping and visiting restaurants without the restrictions. But, I know for myself, it felt odd walking into a store without a mask for the first time. Walking through the stores with others not wearing masks, I keep a reasonable distance from other shoppers. Watching people break their necks trying to find the person that just sneezed or coughed is a little entertaining!
Each of us has been impacted by the pandemic in some form. You may have lost a loved one, known an essential employee as they struggled, lost your job, or battled the virus yourself. Even as our country opens back up, I seem to observe people “maintaining their distance” physically and mentally, myself included. Our culture changed. Our minds changed. We are more appreciative of our family and friends. Yet we are still reserved interacting with strangers or acquaintances. With this type of mindset, our mental health and physical health will suffer from not having “normal” social interaction. As the Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported, “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”
If you’ve been limiting your social interactions, it’s time to start opening up. Start slow. As you walk around, make eye contact with people. Share a smile! Join a club. Strike up a conversation with strangers as you wait in line at the grocery store. Call those longtime friends and meet for dinner! Social interaction has to start somewhere! We are all hesitant to step outside our bubbles, but we are getting there slowly. You are not alone.