The tricky business of coaxing people back into society…

I have been texting an old school friend to meet up for a walk. He replied that he is in such bad shape after a year and a half in lockdown that even a walk might be too taxing.

The pandemic affects everyone differently. Some people are living their best lives with more time with family and loads of savings due to the inability to spend to the same level. Others have had it hard with loneliness and isolation taking their toll. Stories abound of the covid stone and people hitting the bottle.

I think the general vibe for many of us is the feeling of being stuck in a rut. Every day seems the same, a groundhog day of the same old, same old. I eat out twice a week and have been away on a few trips, but even I have the general meh feeling. As we hopefully near the end of the pandemic, that is when many of us will feel the crash — a mild case of PTSD or adrenal fatigue. We have been living on our nerves the past year and a half, and it’s time for the hangover.

Humans crave routine: Tuesday night spaghetti bolognese, Friday night fish and chips. Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced us to change our routines, some for the better, like getting out for more walks. Other routines are more destructive, like sitting on the sofa watching Netflix and horsing crisps and beer into us.

Many people were very keen to hit the restaurants and bars again when they reopened, but I think we need to give more attention to coaxing the middle ground out of their comforting inertia. People have gotten used to drinking at home. Why bother with the hassle of going to a pub when you can sit on the sofa with a bottle of cheap supermarket beer or wine? Why go to the cinema when you can watch Netflix or Prime? It can seem like such a hassle leaving the house; why bother?

Well, the reason is it is good for your mental health to get out and about. To meet up with friends and get a change of scene. Even if you are not a drinker, it is nice to go to a coffee shop or get lunch. I never understand why more people don’t eat out for lunch; the deals are amazing. £6 for a pizza and salad in Little Wing, £10 for a 2 course Indian in the Bengal Brasserie, £6 lunch special in Camille Thai – they are practically giving the food away.

We all need human contact; even the most introverted amongst us need community.

So what to do? Well, make an effort. Text a friend to meet up. Say yes if you are invited to something, no matter how boring it sounds. If you are stuck for buddies, check out local meetup groups or consider signing up for an evening course at your local university or college.

The key thing to remember is it is not just you. Despite what you might think looking at people’s lives edited on social media, many people are equally bored and lonely. You are not intruding by asking a friend to meet up; likely, they will only be too keen for a break from the old routine.