How a Pandemic Has Helped to Strengthen My Friendships

Sunday, 3 May 2020


Friendship has been something that I've struggled with for a few years now, mostly since leaving uni. In my late teens and very early twenties, I was someone who always had a good group of friends around her, and my friendships came second only to my family. I was so sociable and always had someone to call upon when I needed a night out, a cry or someone to sit in silence and watch trash telly with.

After I moved away and started working, I found my friendships difficult to maintain, and making new friends was even more tricky. Suddenly I was an adult, working full-time, trying to get enough sleep, remembering to clean my house every so often and getting pushed and pulled in so many directions that something had to give. And rightly or wrongly (although in my opinion, wrongly), my friendships were what fell by the wayside.

It's something that I've been working on for a good year or so now. But since coronavirus started wreaking its havoc all over the world, I've noticed a real shift in the dynamic of the friendships I have. And unbeknownst to me, the new way of life we've all had to adapt as a result of a global pandemic has actually helped to strengthen my friendships and put into perspective the behaviours that I want to take with me into the new, post-Corona normality.

Friendships have become easier to focus your time on since lockdown. I'll be honest, in normal life I'm a pretty inconsistent friend. I'm always thinking of the next thing that I need to tick off my to-do list, fretting about how I'm cram everything into my day. I live my life at a hundred miles an hour and this can result in some serious tunnel-vision.

So sometimes, I forget to call my friends, or text to check in. Or I'll ignore my phone ringing, thinking 'I really don't have the time to be sitting on the phone with you for an hour, I've got too much going on.' And it sounds so selfish when I type it out, and I do feel guilty for it. It isn't deliberate selfishness, it's just that when you spend so much time in a rush and trying to spend every minute productively, you can promise yourself that you'll call them back later, and you get caught up in the next thing. But you never do.

But the thing about lockdown is that it forced me to slow down. My to-do list had been slashed, time no longer exists and all of a sudden, a spontaneous hour on FaceTime with a pal doesn't induce guilt that I should have been getting other stuff done during that time. And when I hang up on that call, whether we've talked about how long we had to queue outside the supermarket the other day or making plans for what we're going to do once 'all this is over', I realise how good that catch up has been for me. How I feel lighter, and I've promised myself each and every time that I'm not going to go back to being the inconsistent friend once I'm back to working non-stop and trying to juggle everything.

But at the same time, the pressure has been taken off. While I value my friendships so highly, when the whole world has been turned topsy-turvy, there are days where I just can't cope with being sociable. For me, my feelings around the current situation have come in massive waves, and there are days where I don't feel like talking to anyone, and I'd sooner just keep to myself for a bit. Sometimes people take that as a sign that I'm not coping, but it's actually the opposite. It's recognising what I need to do to cope with what's going on around me on that particular day. Sometimes it's talking it out, sometimes it's spending my day in a blanket and eating crisps and not speaking to anyone all day. Neither is wrong.

Or there's the occasional day where I've already spoken to my family, done a Zoom quiz, had a catch up with colleagues and seemingly spent my entire day on the phone or FaceTime. And then, another call comes in, or a friend messages asking if I'm free for a catch up. But I already feel so exhausted by it all. Like social burn-out. It sounds like such a first-world problem, doesn't it? But one of the biggest lessons I've learned in this pandemic, is that you've sometimes just got to let yourself feel how you feel when you find yourself in such an extraordinary situation. So I will message back, guilt-free, and suggest that maybe we speak tomorrow instead. After spending a bit of a time reading a book, or binge-watching something, or whatever I feel like I need to do for myself, I can then speak to my friend in a much better headspace than if I spoke to them there and then.

The lovely thing is, that rather than worrying about whether or not my pals will think that I'm neglecting them, I know they'll understand. Because we're all going through something which is totally unprecedented and nothing like we've experienced before, and we're all just trying to do what we can to get through. There's less expectation, and I feel like that's made my friendships feel so much stronger.

I think for me, it's been the little things that have meant the most in lockdown. Little things like hand-written postcards, with a few words of love and encouragement that break up the bills and flyers from Farmfoods that are coming through the door. Something wholesome and tangible that I can put on the mantelpiece and smile at when lockdown life threatens to wear me down.

Other little things like sending the odd text to each other, simply saying 'you okay?' or 'how are you coping?' Not sent out of obligation or remembering that you haven't spoken for a while. Not even a real obligation to follow it up with a long chat. But in those few words, you're letting that other person know that you're thinking of them and you're there for them if they need you. And that's enough.

When there's so much sadness, uncertainty and grief in the world, I think it's important to try to find the positives, no matter how small they might be. For me, the biggest thing I'm going to take away from this pandemic and something that I am grateful for every single day is how much I've learned about friendship. I'm so fortunate to have such wonderful friends, who have kept me sane through all of this.

Once we're into our post-Coronavirus normal, whatever that future might look like, I know exactly which behaviours I'd like to leave firmly in the previous version of normal. Putting more time and energy into my friendships is number one on the list.

Love,
Sian xo






5 comments

  1. Oh my gosh my lovely, this post filled my heart with so much joy. I loved it! I can totally relate to what you're saying too. "Friends are the family that we choose for ourselves"! I'm sending you so much love. Stay strong, stay home, stay safe. 💜

    With love, Alisha Valerie x | www.alishavalerie.com

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    1. Aw I'm so glad you enjoyed reading and can relate! xo

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  2. I can totally relate! I’ve found connections have become so much more frequent and meaningful over these past weeks! Especially thanks to those little ‘How are you doing?’ questions indeed!

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    1. Yes definitely! I speak to my friends way more now than I ever did, and I love that! And it doesn't feel like it's a forced thing at all xo

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