Lifestyle

Lockdown isolation is putting 'enormous pressures on friendships'

If you’ve noticed your friendships changing during lockdown, you’re not the only one.

The pandemic has stopped us seeing our friends as often as we’re used to, so it would be little wonder if you’ve noticed a shift in the dynamic of your friendship group(s).

A study of 2,000 people by Interflora found that frequent dinners, drinks and shopping trips were among the top social activities people reported as important in maintaining healthy friendships.

Now that all of those things are off the cards in this part of the world, and elsewhere in the UK the rule of six still applies, maintaining friendships face to face is a lot harder than it used to be.

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Dr Daria J. Kuss, associate professor in psychology at Nottingham Trent University tells Metro.co.uk: ‘During lockdown, whilst our only opportunity to meet up with one member of another household is by engaging in a sports activity together outdoors (maintaining social distance, of course), we may feel increasingly lonely and disconnected from our social circles as there are no more dinners, after-work-drinks or theatre visits for the foreseeable weeks.’

Counselling Directory member Pam Custers says: ‘We all need friends. As social creatures, our connection with others give our lives meaning.

‘Isolation is an assault on our very being. We know that isolation has been used as a source of punishment.

‘So those moments of connection are even more crucial at this time when we are in the middle of lockdown.

‘The fact we are in lockdown places enormous pressures on friendships. Our lives have been stripped back.

‘All the normal ways that we would cultivate or engage with our friends have almost all been removed. That casual walk to get a takeaway coffee with a work colleague. Walking together to the tube. Those moments when groups get together for an after-work drink.

‘Are all easy ways to keep connected. We now no longer have those casual moments of connection. When we connect now it is a more formal arrangement and some friendships are not able to withstand the intensity.

‘It is not that they are not good friends, it’s just that those friends are not our intimate friends. So the pressure returns to our very small group of people who we can spend one on one time with. Many of us have just a small number. This places pressures on those people and pressure on us to keep up with them.’

So what can we do to keep our friendships strong during lockdown?

Pam says: ‘Now more than ever it is important to have those easy connections. Arrange an after-work drink with your office on a Zoom call. If you are enjoying the chat with one person ask them if they want a coffee.

‘Make time each day to have at least one conversation that feels connected. Join a dating site and go on virtual dates.

‘There is a multitude of online groups from yoga to choirs. Reach out and you will be surprised how many people will reach straight back.’

Dr Daria also recommends making time to connect remotely, but stresses that you should not be putting yourself or your friends under too much pressure to socialise during this highly stressful time.

She says: ‘The best thing to do with regards to staying close to our friends from afar is to keep in regular contact with them – via phone, chat, Zoom and social media.

‘There are so many ways to keep in touch, so make sure to engage with these. At the same time, manage your expectations.

‘Lockdown is tough on people and not everyone may feel particularly social to keep using Zoom calls for virtual get-togethers.

‘Managing expectations holds both for your friends as well as yourself. Don’t expect too much from yourself, be kind and caring towards yourself just as you would be to your friends – do not exert unnecessary pressure on yourself to stay connected at all costs.

‘Make sure to focus on your needs in the first place, and then get together online when you feel like it.’

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