It’s no surprise that the year of isolation has chipped away at our social skills; interactions at the grocery store are now the highlight of the week, and getting dressed up in anything other than sweats seems like an impossible task. Post-pandemic awkwardness has been a topic on the internet well before vaccines were approved, where people were already dreading the social mishaps bound to arise when the world reopens.
The memes have been everywhere on social media, with a new topic of discussion floating around: dating. As if first dates weren’t awkward enough, now there’s an overwhelming lack of social skills to go along with nerves and excitement—seem like a recipe for disaster? The internet agrees.
As vaccine rollout continues faster than anticipated, the prospect of in-person dating is back on the horizon, and psychology experts say that post-lockdown dating will be a major anxiety trigger for some. “For most people, the stress of widening a pretty tight circle of people is going to engender anxiety at this time,” says Robin Hornstein, PhD.
Hornstein suggests building confidence independently before jumping back into the dating scene. After a year of uncertainty, being intentional and cautious in your love life is the best way to protect your mental health from additional stress. She also suggests having a few icebreakers and topics ready to avoid the isolation-related awkwardness, and to prioritize choosing a date activity that will spark connection and conversation.
Being outside can help calm first date anxieties; star-gazing or people-watching are two examples listed by Hornstein that she’s found help alleviate post-pandemic anxiety when meeting someone for the first time.
Above all, you can be comfortable in the fact that your date is probably feeling the same way—no one makes it through a year of isolation with their social skills unscathed. So relax, first dates are always awkward, but hey, at least now you have an excuse!