Lately I have been feeling lonely and distanced from my friends. I feel like I am not as connected as I was before. I overthink quite a lot and I’m beginning to have shortness of breath again. I always compare myself with my parents who seem well connected to their friends. I barely chat with my friends on Facebook or via phone or text message. What should I do to overcome this? Should I try reaching them out by calling them? I don’t know what I should talk to them about.
You say you are feeling lonely and distanced at times, sorry to hear that. It has been a difficult year, as many of us were in lockdown and not able to spend time with friends. Many have said that this has made them feel like friendships have drifted apart. It sounds like you have an expectation of yourself to be more social, and it is normal to want to connect with others, but everyone will have their own levels of social interaction that feels okay for them.
You say it is difficult to connect with some of your friends individually and I am wondering what is preventing that? Is it perhaps, as you mentioned, anxiety around not knowing what to talk about on the phone, or are there other reasons as well? Social anxiety often results in us feeling more self-conscious in social situations. and can include overthinking things. This a very common experience that many of us will go through at different times in our lives, and there are many different ways to help manage this, such as breathing to help regulate your physiological response and challenging or unhooking from anxious thoughts.
In terms of connecting with friends, a great way to spend time with them is by taking part in a shared activity, as it puts less pressure on the conversation being the main focus. Perhaps you can organise a hike, see a movie, or another activity with one or a few friends? Even a walk around the garden, or cooking a new recipe together can be a way to connect. It is likely that others are also feeling a bit anxious about socialising, so reaching out to them may be a way to kick start that connection again. We often assume that others are doing much better than we are, because we compare how we feel inside with what we think is happening on the outside for someone else!
If you are considering reaching out to other people more, you may want to try to do this in gradual stages so that you don’t feel too overwhelmed. Try to be kind to yourself for at least taking small steps in the direction you wish to go.
We have several groups and webinars offered by CAPS that could help including a 3-part webinar ‘Overcoming Social Anxiety’ and webinars on unhooking from negative thinking and increasing self-compassion. I would encourage you to book in if you think it may be helpful. We can always help with a more tailored perspective in an individual session with one of our Counsellors.