How to Rekindle Friendships After COVID-19

Another toll of COVID-19: Lost casual friendships and their uplifting value

How to Rekindle Friendships After COVID-19

A year of COVID-19 has affected American life in so many ways – including one painful loss we might not consciously register: Our casual friendships and everyday interactions.  We miss the everyday smiles and jokes with baristas more than we realize.

Those are our “how ya doing” friendships – people we chat with at work, the gym, in cafés, stores or bars. Plus, we’ve lost the simple hellos and smiles to clerks, building co-inhabitants, people passing on the street and more. They add depth to our lives and a layer of shared humanity that psychologists say is essential to our emotional health. 

“Those are important pieces of our emotional lives that we’re missing,” said Kaye Hermanson, UC Davis Health clinical psychologist in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. “It’s our emotional picture is still in color but there are some hues completely washed out.” 

These are also the relationships many people haven’t looked after during the COVID-19 pandemic, partly because they aren’t at the Zoom level of familiarity and partly because we can’t. We know many of these people by first name only, if at all. 

But if they live near the edges of our lives, that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.  Research suggests they bolster our emotional health in many ways. 

Those casual friendships fill in our days and our sense of belonging. They add an underlying warmth and comfort to our world. They bring up memories, build our sense of community, make us feel we’re part of something larger. 

We don’t know how much we miss people we barely know

“Many people talk about missing their families or best friends. They may not realize how much they miss their casual friends, too, and how much that hole in their lives adds to a sense of isolation.”

— Kaye Hermanson

“We hear how people are feeling isolated during the pandemic,” Hermanson said. “Many people talk about missing their families or best friends. They may not realize how much they miss their casual friends, too, and how much that hole in their lives adds to a sense of isolation.” 

One example of a diminished connection is the everyday work meeting. Sitting in an actual room together, colleagues tend to toss out smiles, casual jokes and affirmations – even with serious business to do. It’s much harder to connect in a video conference – because people tend to stick to business and because the medium distorts our connections. 

“There are micro expressions that people make,” Hermanson said. “They take fractions of a second. Our brains are really amazing at picking up on those. We can tell if someone is pleased or uncomfortable or a thousand other things. If I accidentally said something awkward, I can instantly correct it.” 

Much of that gets missed on a video conference. We don’t see each other as clearly, obviously, and the sound and the video aren’t synced well-enough to catch much of the non-verbal communication. 

“And it’s hard to make eye contact,” Hermanson said. “If you’re looking at camera on top of the computer, you’re not looking at them in the eye. We can’t do all the things we do naturally to make the other person us or to put them at ease.” 

On top of missing our casual friends and connections, we miss our everyday inconsequential interactions – letting someone go through a door first, picking up a dropped item, joking with a barista, even just smiling. Research shows smiling at someone can make us happy. 

“Those bits of connection are light and make us feel good simply because they are inconsequential,” Hermanson said. “Now, we can’t even tell if someone is smiling under their mask.” 

How to rekindle casual friendships

“It’s our emotional picture is still in color but there are some hues completely washed out.”

— Kaye Hermanson

  • “The first thing is to be aware we’re missing them,” Hermanson said. “That will help explain some of the reasons why we feel isolated or bored. It’s normal and it will end. Keep telling yourself that we’re all doing the best we can right now.” 
  • Try texting casual friends you haven’t seen to say you’re thinking about them. “Who wouldn’t want to get that text?” she said. “It will make you both feel more connected.” 
  • Despite the shortcomings, try a video conference with a group of casual friends who know each other. “It still can provide some important emotional connections,” Hermanson said. “Just shooting the breeze adds real joy to our lives.” 
  • Keep smiling at people under that mask. “Some people will see your eyes and know,” she said. “I’m an extrovert. Getting people to smile gives me a boost. Sometimes I tell people, ‘I’m smiling at you,’ just to be sure they know. And they smile back, I think.” 

If progress on vaccinations continues, and if people keep up their safety practices, especially masking and social distancing, we may be letting some of these people back into our lives in the coming months. 

“Now we know how much we miss those casual friends,” Hermanson said. “We just need to stay safe a little longer and think about how happy we’ll be to see our family, best friends and all our casual friends. Knowing what they mean to us might make us all better friends when this is over.”


How to Rekindle a Friendship After COVID: Advice for Teens

How to Rekindle Friendships After COVID-19

June 8 is National Best Friends Day.

It’s a chance to celebrate the friends in your life and show them how much they mean to you.

If you’re many teens, COVID-19 has impacted some – if not most – of your friendships. The frequent shelter-in-place guidelines, virtual school, and social distancing requirements of 2020 were not conducive to developing and maintaining friendships.

It’s awkward to talk while wearing masks, or to stay six feet apart while having a DMC (Deep Meaningful Conversation).If your relationship with your best friend suffered over the past year, here are some ways to mend the bond. Not hugging or high-fiving your best friend for an entire year is not fun.

It’s no wonder that loneliness and isolation led to staggering increases in mental health problems during the pandemic.

Your family’s personal approach towards COVID might have affected your social life, too. Some parents were strict and some weren’t strict about COVID rules. Maybe you wanted to chill with your friends – but your parents said it was too risky. Or perhaps your family thought it was ok, but your best friend’s parents weren’t on board.

In any case, it’s natural that teen friendships fizzled out during the pandemic. If your relationship with your best friend suffered over the past year, here are some ways to mend the bond.

How To Rekindle A Friendship

Calling SOS on your sunken friendship?

We’re here with a life preserver, ready to rescue you two.

Here are some ways you can give your relationship some extra TLC:

1. Reach Out

This sounds obvious, but we’ll say it anyway. If you and your best friend haven’t talked in a long time, give them a call. Get on Zoom or Facetime together.

Ask your friend if you can get together in person, if both your parents allow it. Catch up on the past few months. Catch up on the past year! Pro tip: schedule ample time for the call.

It doesn’t make sense to call someone to reconnect and then say you have to get off the phone after five minutes.

2. Remind Them of The Before Times

Send your friend a picture of the two of you before COVID-19. Or talk about an experience you had that was memorable, funny, or just plain nutty. Reminding your BFF of the way things were pre-pandemic might spark some nostalgia and help you rekindle the relationship. The goal is to make your friend smile and reminisce about how much fun you used to have together.

3. Walk a Mile

Once you reconnect and hear what your BFF has been up to during COVID, make sure to empathize. That means putting yourself in their shoes for a while. Talk about what they want to talk about. Listen carefully to whatever they want to talk about.

If a family member got sick with COVID, or if they lost a friend or family member to COVID, express your condolences and don’t move on to another topic until you’re sure they’re done talking.

If they had to cancel a Sweet 16 birthday party, Bar Mitzvah, Quinceañera, or another major event, acknowledge the loss and help them work through it, if that’s what they need.

4. Spend Time in a Group

If your friendship has been on hold, it might be initially awkward just to hang out one-on-one.

Consider spending time with your friend as part of a larger group, even if it’s just one or two other friends. In a group setting, there’s less of a chance for awkward silences and forced conversation.

Other friends will make the hangout more chill. This makes it easier to relax and be authentic.

5. Invite Them to an Activity.

As venues start opening up and social-distancing regulations relax, you can invite your friend to spend time doing something you both enjoy.

Who’s their favorite singer? What’s their favorite team? Favorite restaurant? Choose an activity you know they’d , such as a concert, sporting event, or delicious meal. Or choose an experience a common interest.

If you two had a unique ritual – such as going hiking every Sunday, or grabbing a drink at a local coffee shop before school – see if you can resume the ritual. If you’re nervous about it being a bit awkward, invite friends to join you.

6. Clear the Air

Communication is key when it comes to rebuilding a friendship. If there’s an elephant in the room, talk about it. Be as honest as possible, even if you’re embarrassed.

When talking, use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. For example: “I felt ignored when my phone calls and texts went unanswered for days on end. I didn’t know what was going on.

” One honest conversation can save a dozen conflicts down the road.

7. Apologize

If there’s a thick wall of ice between you and your friend, try and think about whether there’s anything you did that could have contributed to building it. If you think you hurt your friend in any way, apologize. Be specific and be genuine.

Don’t qualify your apology with an “if.” Saying “I’m sorry if you felt hurt” is not really an apology. Also, don’t follow an apology with the word “but.” Saying “I’m sorry, but…” undermines the apology.

Your job is to apologize and then wait for them to talk.

8. Don’t Hold Grudges

Maybe you and your BFF grew apart after something they did. If that’s the case try to forgive and forget. Be Elsa in Frozen: “Let it go…the past is in the past.

” Holding a grudge will make it hard to rekindle the friendship. It also makes it more ly they’ll avoid you.

If they did something that really hurt you and you’re still angry about it, an honest conversation might be in order. See #5- Clear the Air.

9. Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt

If your BFF doesn’t return your calls or texts, give them the benefit of the doubt. They could be dealing with issues of their own. Perhaps they have family issues. Maybe someone in their family is sick.

Maybe they’re dealing with a mental health, substance abuse, or emotional issue that has nothing to do with you. When people don’t get back to you, it’s not always personal.

Send them a text that acknowledges you’re here for them if they ever want to talk, and then give them space. When they’re ready, they’ll reach out.

10. Know When It’s Time to Part Ways

If you’ve tried everything, and months have gone by and they haven’t responded to you,  it might be time to stop trying. If you feel you put in real effort with no reciprocity, they may not want to reconnect.

And – though you’re lonely because you miss your best friend – holding on when you need to let go does not feel good at all. And it isn’t good for your mental health, either.

If the end of the friendship hits you hard, please our article on how to get over a friendship break up – the information in that article can help.

Accept and Move On – If That’s What’s Needed

While absence usually makes the heart go fonder, there’s also another truism to consider: sight, mind. It’s natural for friends to grow apart under the best of circumstances.

And during a global pandemic, when you haven’t been able to hang out in person at all, growing apart is not surprising.

Trying the tips above might help you rekindle your relationship, but you have to accept the fact that there may be nothing you can do about it. It may be sad, but it’s also true.

New Friends Are Waiting

Keep this in mind: friendships don’t always last forever. Believe it or not, best friends come and go throughout the different stages of your life. The best thing you can do is reconnect with friends who want to reconnect. And if this cycle of friendship reached its natural endpoint during the pandemic, now is the perfect time to meet other teens and expand your circle of friends.

Originally from California, Yael combines her background in English and Psychology in her role as Content Writer for Evolve Treatment Centers.


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