This week saw the easing of lockdown measures in many parts of the UK, and the highly anticipated call of “first orders” in outdoor hospitality venues.

As hardy drinkers braved the cold for that longed-for pint, among the early revellers’ verdicts were “exciting” and “an absolute riot”. Others were more reticent: “slightly scary” and “I’m not sure”.

It seems that not everyone is champing at the bit to leave social Siberia. New research reveals that more than half the population has anxiety about socialising without restrictions – with 10% going as far as to say they are scared.

A further 38% say it will be a long time before they’ll feel comfortable socialising in the same way as pre-pandemic.

I am delighted to be able to see friends again – albeit outdoors – and to taste something other than my own cooking.

But I do sympathise with those who are feeling apprehensive.

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Social distancing or physical distancing is a set of nonpharmaceutical infection control actions
I'm a bit worried about lockdown easing as many can suffer anxiety

The survey, conducted by The Big Lunch, found that 10 million people are worried that they’ve forgotten how to have a proper conversation. What did we even talk about before Covid? And how do you break the ice with someone you haven’t seen for ages if you can’t give them a hug?

Then there’s “friendship funnelling” – it’s a thing! Due to differing attitudes towards lockdown, some people have found it hard to maintain relationships.

Not everyone has been eager to dive into a digital social scene, and one in five people reported that a friendship had fizzled out. A shocking nine million felt let down or unsupported by a pal.

For a lot of people, their support network changed when they couldn’t see the people they normally socialise with.

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Not surprisingly, 12 million people now feel closer to their neighbours than pre-pandemic.

So if you’re suffering from “re-entry anxiety”, the key to getting socially fit is to get nattering to the locals.

Last year, I was one of more than four million who took part in The Big Lunch – the UK’s largest get-together for neighbours. In a normal year, millions of people bust out the bunting and have street parties to celebrate community.

Last year, it went ahead virtually, encouraging digital dining and neighbourly natters. This summer, The Big Lunch – from June 5 to July 4 – gives people a whole month for socially safe get-togethers.

This could be a picnic in the park, a gathering in the garden or a doorstep cuppa.

The past year has been tough. The idea of people being able to get together again brings with it natural anxieties. That’s why it’s okay to take things slowly and have your own road-map out of lockdown.

I feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety, but I’ll be taking a deep
breath and embracing the new normal – even if it does mean three jumpers and a ski jacket.

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