Words by Stevie Palmer, Staff Writer 

With restrictions easing in the UK, and the beginning of a new year at university (for many their first actual year in person), it is a time of adjustment and change for everyone. 

Whilst your social media feed may be plastered with photos dumps from a ‘summer of fun’, or the ‘best freshers ever’, all may not be as it seems. For many people, and students especially, the last few months haven’t been the high life, party zone that social media might make it out to be. 

With increasing pressures to return to the energy and intensity of the pre-COVID lifestyle, it is quite understandable why many students are finding themselves feeling increased ‘post pandemic social anxiety’, when it comes to returning to the pre-COVID ‘social scene’. Afterall, we have been locked indoors for the last year and a half. With rising fears of not being able to make small talk anymore, or the desire to just stay in becoming an increasing reality for a lot of people, I want to briefly use this space to reassure you that, if you feel this way… you are not alone. We are currently sailing uncharted waters, so it’s okay to not feel as though you are able to operate in the same way you did when we were sailing the seven seas; and really, you don’t need to. 

Capitalist-driven socialisation has made us believe that our worth as a human is largely equated to the output value we have in society. Post-COVID, this is manifested by the idea that we must quickly return to the high-octane life that came pre-COVID, whether that be in terms of work or social interaction, we must ‘pick up where we left off’, in order to and aid the return to normality the Johnson administration has set forward. 

But in reality, you don’t. You don’t owe anything to anyone. The height of the pandemic crisis saw some of the worst mental health periods a lot of people have experienced and will ever experience in their lifetime. The strain we were put under as humans is not something that can be moved on from lightly. Not only will it take time, it will also take patience with one-to-one and internal reflection, if we are ever to return to a ‘pre-COVID’ lifestyle.

Whilst the height of the pandemic was a hurricane of emotions, within it came some peace. I occasionally find myself reminiscing over those silent Saturday nights in bed with a cup of tea and my word search; those Legato Tuesday evenings in the summer sun; or the somewhat tranquil nature that came from being alone, with nowhere to be, and nothing to do. 

It is from these reflections I question whether we as a society should be encouraged to put the experiences of the lockdowns and COVID in a box and move on. As a nation, the lockdowns made us slow down our daily lives, make time for other people and the activities we care about. It put health and mental health at the forefront of the conversation, and I don’t think that is something we should be so hasty to move away from, despite the ever-increasing demands from the capitalist centred model we live in.

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