Reflections on Social Health and the Pandemic
If our experiences with COVID-19 have taught us anything, it's how to get our fill of socialization amidst a world of social distancing, face masks, and stay-at-home orders. It has also brought to light just how much we need (or don't need) certain socialization experiences--- helping us to realize what is truly necessary and what isn't in terms of Social Health.
When I think of Social Health, I think of it as yet another one of the pieces of overall Holistic Health. Social Health refers to knowing when you need social interaction/contact and when you need alone time.
Undoubtedly, this pandemic affected Social Health.
No hugging. No leaving the house. No sports. No school activities. No school. Some work cancelled or changed. More working from home. No church. No groups greater than 10. No ceremonies or graduations. No concerts, movies, restaurants, or playgrounds. Many of the springs from which we typically fill our cups of socialization suddenly went dry. Many were left questioning where/how to get their social fill.
And yet, for others, this was welcomed. Many people were already running on empty. Those people's cups were already bone dry, exhausted from over-socialization. Exhausted from the never-ending carousel of socialization. The birthday parties. The get-togethers. Fundraisers. Facebook meet events. School events. Ceremonies. Practice here. Sports game there. Dropping this off. Picking this up. For those, COVID-19 offered a time for catching up on alone time.
This pandemic offered an excellent example for exploring Social Health. Social Health, at its core, is truly about balancing your socialization time and your alone/self time. Yet, there is no one-size-fits-all aspect to Social Health.
Everyone has a different internal scale that must be balanced. Think of the ideas of introvert and extrovert. People often think of these as dichotomous terms; either/or; black and white. There's this idea floating around that you are either one or the other. Yet introvert/extrovert is much more of a spectrum. Think of it as a large scale. On one end, you have people who are mostly extroverted---loving every second of their time with others---and on the other end, you have people who are mostly introverted---cherishing as much alone time as possible. And then in between those two ends? A whole range of introvert/extrovert combinations. We are all both introverted and extroverted. We all have these pieces of ourselves, in varying degrees and combinations. We all need socialization; we all need alone time.
So while some people might only need to be around others once a month, others might feel the need to connect with others on the daily. Some people might like to hang out with friends every Friday, while others prefer every other Saturday. And even for people who are largely extroverted, they still need alone time. It's necessary for Social Health. And likewise, people who are largely introverted still need socialization time. It's all about the balance.
Part of taking care of Social Health is the act of finding and knowing your balance. Listening to that inner self and letting that guide you.
To help discover your own balance, ask yourself: How often do I need to interact on social media? How often do I need to meet up with friends? What social activities are necessary? Which social activities are not needed? What social activities enliven me? Which social activities drain me? If I feel exhausted from over-socialization, how can I recharge myself? If I feel like I'm running on empty from lack of socialization, how can I replenish that? Most importantly, ask: How are my current activities upholding (or not upholding) my Social Health?
Once you determine your balance, decide what you need. Are you balanced? Or are you isolated/over-socialized? Do you need socialization? Do you need alone time?
If you are exhausted and over-socialized: Make time for you. Meditate. Hike. Sit in the park alone. After the kids are in bed, set some time to the side to just breathe and exist within yourself, letting yourself process and decompress. Consider taking a break from social media/social networking. Decide what social events are absolutely necessary and which ones you can gracefully bow out of. If you are needing socialization: Make use of any and all ways of connecting with others. Connect more with social media. Connect with people through Facebook messenger, Marco Polo, Snapchat, etc. Meet up with a friend for coffee, dinner, a walk in the park, etc. Call family members and catch up. Chit-chat with your coworker, your neighbor, or the grocery store clerk.
It's also worth noting that depression, anxiety, trauma, and other life challenges can distort our perception of what we need in order to balance our Social Health. When faced with anxiety, we might feel more like hiding than socializing. When faced with depression, we might prefer to stay in the bed and isolate. Trauma can make us feel fearful, uncertain, or skeptical of other people. If you are struggling due to this, reach out to a therapist. We are trained to help people unravel those distortions and find that true, inner balance.
Again: it's all about balance. Knowing what you need, then honoring that, while always considering how your activities are upholding your Social Health. So get out there and be social.
In a group.
It's your balancing act. Figure out what you need and get to balancing!