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friendships after pandemic

Hello everybody, welcome to episode 223 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's episode is about post-pandemic friendships.

I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com

Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 223 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.

Today, we take a look at a question that’s not about pandemic anxiety, but post-pandemic anxiety! Yeah, there’s plenty of excitement as things are looking way up right now, but there’s always room to be a little antsy too, right? Our listener today is feeling shaky about seeing her friends again, friends that she’s fallen out of touch with over the last year. Let’s have a conversation about how to approach friendships that might have fallen off the wagon a little bit. Here’s her question…

QUESTION: “Right now I’m feeling so anxious about meeting up with my friends again. And it’s not a safety thing. I’ve only talked about getting together with other friends who are vaccinated like I am. But I’m worried that something isn’t going to feel right after not seeing each other for so long! We didn’t stay in touch real well during the lockdown. And we’re not normally the types that need to talk a lot. It just feels off. I can’t get over this worry that it’s going to feel weird, maybe even forced. I am excited about the idea of seeing them again, but I just don’t trust that we’re going to pick up where we left off like we usually would.”

Feeling Uncertain Around Friends

I like this question. Thanks for sending this in, asker. Interesting thing to all of a sudden feel uncomfortable or uncertain around friends, isn’t it? Indeed.

I know getting back together with friends is more personal, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to compare getting back together with friends to going back out to eat, going to back to the gym, even going back to sporting events and other big gatherings. All of these things are going to feel odd because we’re out of practice in all of them.

At the time of this episode, most of us here in the US anyway have probably gone back to a restaurant at least once, even if it was outdoors. And that was weird, wasn’t it? What was once a thoughtless thing is now a combination of exhilaration and concern for the safety of ourselves and (hopefully) others.

The same is true of friendships. We hate to think this way because we love our friends and it’s sort of unsettling to think that our relationships with them could be shaken by something, but in this case, they probably have. And that’s fine.

Don't Put Pressure on Your Friendships

So don’t put pressure on you or your friends to see each other again as if nothing happened. Don’t put pressure on yourselves to feel totally at ease.

The truth is something did happen that affected the entire world, and the entire world is going to take a little while to get back into its rhythm. Friendships aren’t immune to this, so lower your expectations. Don’t feel as though it has to be a seamless transition. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and even if it did, who says it’s on your shoulders and your shoulders alone to make it so?

The dark beauty of this situation for friends around the world is that we’re all in it together. You’re not alone in your feelings; we’re all experiencing them to different degrees. That includes your own friends. They might feel the same way.

And if they’re like you in that they’re a little anxious about things going perfectly, they definitely feel the same way. And you all have the right to feel that way or any other way. But as always, what’s more important is what you do with those feelings.

Nobody Did Anything Wrong

What you shouldn’t do is shame yourself or your friends, nor should they shame you or themselves. Because none of you did anything wrong. So what if some image of keeping up enough contact during the pandemic wasn’t upheld? Big deal.

The pandemic made it hard for some friendships to withstand and that’s ok. It was new territory for all of you. And now it’s new territory for all of you to get back into the swing of things. So unless someone was out and out rude during the last year, enjoy starting this new journey together.

Finding Your Way

And part of that new journey means breaking the ice! If you want to feel comfortable around your friends again, the last thing to do is to pretend you’re feeling something you’re not. Tell them it feels weird. You can feel both weird and excited at the same time. Having these feelings and expressing them is not something that is off limits.

Maybe it seems like a tough thing to imagine doing or feeling comfortable with now, but I’d bet that everything is going to flow much, much easier when you’re actually in the presence of your friends and your mind is busy having a good time rather than worrying about if everything was going to be just right.

And if everyone is somehow so awkward and the whole interaction really feels like a tractor pull, then you work through it together. If these really are good friends, you’ll find your way in time.

Conclusion: Post Pandemic Friendships

With that being said, keep in touch. Keep getting together. Make it a point of staying in touch this time around and devoting yourself to feeling back into a normal cycle of friendships sooner than later.

Talk through what people experienced during the pandemic. What realizations did they come to? What did they miss the most? What did they get done? How’d they entertain themselves around the house?

Conversations like this will help draw all of you into who you are post-pandemic, and since those are the versions of yourselves now, those are the versions of yourselves that are going to be friends from here on out.

Thanks again to the asker for sending this question in! For everyone else, whether you did or didn’t relate to this same uneasiness about getting back in touch with friends, take this episode as a reminder to give yourself a little break when it comes to this hopeful return to normal.

It might take a little while to get your feet wet. When I first got back to hockey recently, I went out there with my skate guards still on. Stepped right onto the ice with them, fell twice before I knew what was happening. I was the first one on the ice too, everyone saw it.

So take that visual and use it as an analogy for how things might go in general. Just like me, you’ll figure it out after a few laughs. Have a good one everybody, I’m getting out of here. I’ll see you in the next one.

Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 223 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.

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Greg Audino

Greg Audino is a Rhode Island-born certified life coach, actor, and graduate of Goucher College. He is the host of the mental health podcast Optimal Living Advice and narrates dating, marriage, and parenting content over at Optimal Relationships Daily.
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