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Shaking Off the Social Rust after COVID-19

Shaking Off the Social Rust after COVID-19

Olivia E Bogucki, PhD

Olivia E Bogucki, PhD

Olivia E. Bogucki, Ph.D. is a medical psychology fellow in the clinical health psychology track at Mayo Clinic. She holds an academic appointment as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. In her clinical practice, she provides short-term evidence-based psychotherapy for a broad range of behavioral health needs in an integrated care setting. Her research focuses on population-level care for mental health conditions, implementation science, and program development and quality improvement within integrated care settings.

Shaking Off the Social Rust after COVID-19

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Social Anxiety / Social Rust

It may feel like your social skills are a little rusty due to COVID-19. The activities that we used to do, such as attending a social gathering or sharing a meal, may feel awkward or anxiety producing. It is normal to feel this way in the context of the pandemic.

Why am I experiencing social rust?

There are several reasons why your social skills may feel rusty.

  • First, you may be out of practice. After a year of staying at home, sheltering in place, and social distancing, you likely did not have the same opportunities to socialize with other people. 
  • Second, the socializing that you did do may not have felt the same. It could be that virtual get togethers via Zoom or FaceTime did not allow you to connect with other people to the same degree as in-person activities. 
  • Third, you may have gotten used to limited social cues. We use facial expressions, hand gestures, and other non-verbal language to communicate. In-person social interactions may feel strange after wearing face masks and using video chat for so long. 
  • Fourth, you likely shifted your social behavior and may not be sure what to do. For example, it is still not completely clear if social rituals like shaking hands will return. All these factors could be playing a role in social rust.

What can I do to shake off the social rust?

  1. Determine your boundaries: There is not one right way to ease back into your social life. You may feel comfortable taking off your mask in public after getting vaccinated. You may choose to be more cautious if you or a loved one is immunocompromised. It is important to figure out what feels right for you.
  2. Communicate with others: Start a conversation about boundaries when you are making plans. Ask your friends and family what feels right for them and let them know what feel right for you. Respect each other’s boundaries by coming to a compromise.
  3. Identify what matters: There are likely a lot of different things that you miss doing. If you are overwhelmed or unsure where to start, pick the things that are the most important to you. Identifying your values can help you prioritize your options.
  4. Increase your activity: It’s okay to start small. If you want to increase your physical activity but don’t feel ready to go back to the gym, try walking outside or riding your bike. Getting back to our previous routines will likely take some time.
  5. Notice the negative thoughts: Social interactions may not feel natural. That’s okay. If you made a social faux pau or feel like you don’t know what to talk about, don’t be too hard on yourself. 

Olivia E Bogucki, PhD

Olivia E Bogucki, PhD

Olivia E. Bogucki, Ph.D. is a medical psychology fellow in the clinical health psychology track at Mayo Clinic. She holds an academic appointment as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. In her clinical practice, she provides short-term evidence-based psychotherapy for a broad range of behavioral health needs in an integrated care setting. Her research focuses on population-level care for mental health conditions, implementation science, and program development and quality improvement within integrated care settings.

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