Going easy on me, myself and I

640. That’s the number of days since the start of the pandemic to the day I’m writing this article. And in those 640 days, I got great at transitioning. Transitioning from living overseas. Transitioning to turning my bedroom into a workspace. Transitioning to an online social life. But just because I can do it doesn’t mean I like it.

January 21, 2022

By: Ann Andree-Wiebe (career counsellor)

We’re entering 2022 with another transition. Returning to classes on campus. Returning to working in person. Returning to social gatherings. I’m not sure about you, but I think I’ve lost some social skills along the way. It’s easier, in some ways, to retreat back to my trusty computer screen than to face the world beyond my home. After all, that screen has been reflecting back at me for eight hours a day for the past 640 days.

Here are my reflections, offered to you as we all head into classes and workplaces and figure out how to be together again.

You aren’t the only one feeling awkward

We all have to navigate those little social moments that many of us took for granted before the pandemic. 

Should I shake hands? Oh no — I coughed! If I sit here, will they judge me for sitting too close to them? Aargh — I showed up late for work because I don’t know how to judge commuting time anymore! I can’t remember that person’s name. I have no idea who this person is with their mask on — and they’re talking to me.

(An interior monologue)

Take a deep breath and practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is taking the kindness and understanding that you’d show to a good friend and offering that same support to yourself. Remember that time you realized you forgot to bring a mask before almost entering a store? Self-compassion is thinking about what you’d tell a friend in that same situation as you head back to the car. Usually, we’re kinder to our friends than we are to ourselves.

Next time I sneeze — or do any other awkward social thing — I’m going to try using Dr. Kristin Neff’s work on self-compassion, mixing together the following ingredients.

Just like I’d talk a friend through their awkward moment, being gentle and understanding about the mistake, I’ll try that same gentle self-talk on myself.

After more than 640 days, we might not realize that we’re not the only ones having these awkward social moments. But we’re in this together. (Who would’ve thought we’d be united by our awkwardness?)

This is the moment when I acknowledge that the days of isolation have made those social skills rusty. But instead of being hard on myself, it’s important to simply acknowledge it — let it pass and move forward. Try again. There’s no judgement assigned to that rusted-out reality.

Moving forward with kindness

As I make this next transition, my New Year’s resolution is to do it with kindness. Kindness to others and kindness to myself. We will all have different ways of responding to this next transition. Let’s be awkward — graciously awkward — together.

Remember, the Student Wellness Centre (SWC) is here to support your mental health and well-being, so don’t hesitate to connect with them if you need support.

(Thanks to Dr. Kristen Neff’s work, Self-Compassion: What it is what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness.)