Towards the tail end of last year, my life started to change — and quickly. We were out of lockdown again and launched back into making up for lost time. I'd jumped on 'The Great Resignation' train and was leaving my comfortable job of five years to dive into the next one. I was filling my days to the brim, never at home and completely overwhelmed.
In theory, everything was good. But, after a few years of stagnation, the fast pace and lack of predictability had thrown me for a loop. In response to the chaos, I panicked. Instead of creating healthy boundaries where I had enough time to recharge and socialise, I whipped my entire social life off the table and entered my hermit era.
Taking time for myself seemed like the right move. The vision was that I'd be more in control and able to get every task done. By the end of the break, I'd re-emerge rejuvenated and ready to party.
That was far from the reality. If anything, it made me feel hollow and illuminated all the reasons I shouldn't have retreated from my friends. I needed them during that overwhelming period — but I also need them in general.
So, if you're at the end of your tether and tempted to hit pause on your social life, consider the below first.
There's no 'right' way to do it
Growing up with Friends as the north star for how to spend your 20s, I assumed that's what adult friendships should be like. Today, my TikTok feed still reflects it. Close-knit groups of friends, dressed impeccably and out on the town flood my feed. But despite what pop culture shoves down our throats, we don't have to spend all our time in our friends' pockets.
Spending some quiet time at home can still be relaxing with low-maintenance friends. If I was ever to take another pause, I'd invite one of those friends over to do nothing together. Whether it's just having a cup of tea, whipping up a sweet treat like brownies or a Baileys Affogato together, or just silently watching TikToks next to each other on the couch, that's enough.
Friendships make us happier
Sometimes catching up with friends when life is hectic might feel like more work than what it's worth. But they're important appointments to keep. Research has found high life satisfaction and better overall health and happiness are associated with having friends. So, keep fostering your friendships.
At first, freeing myself from social obligations flooded me with relief but then, naturally, I felt lonelier. Dialling down my social life instead of ditching it entirely would have given me the doses of friendship I (and we all) still need.
Good friends push you
When I wasn’t seeing my friends, I ended up spending my extra time wallowing. The social pause was not doing me any good, but I was too close to the situation to tell. It took me a while to work that out.
But good friends aren't too close to the situation. They can (lovingly) hit you with the hard truths to nudge you in the right direction — even when you don't want to hear it.
Mine certainly would have pulled me out of this silly phase earlier if I’d given them the chance.
We learn from our friends
We're always gathering and sharing information with each other when we interact with our friends. Whether it’s pieces of each other's culture, a random trivia fact, or a book that will change our lives, we pick up more than we realise from those around us.
My worldview became very narrow when I ditched all my social commitments. I was in an echo chamber of my own mind. For my job alone this had knock-on effects. I was tapped out on the inspiration front because I was only swimming back and forth through my own thoughts, opinions and ideas.
Your other relationships benefit
Unlike professional and familial relationships, where you're tied to certain people whether you like them or not, the friends we keep are entirely up to us. And it was building my social circle that taught me how to create better bonds.
I would find new friends, want to foster the early embers of that relationship, and then maintain them with a lot of love, effort and commitment. Sustaining those friendships showed me where I was falling short in others.
Putting the same level of care into building all of my other relationships – especially some that I might have taken for granted as always being there – has made me a better relative and colleague.
While I still think there is some merit in taking a small break from your social life, I'd handle it very differently if I was ever to try it again. For starters, I'd still see friends in a relaxed setting and give the break a set timeframe. My biggest regret about this pause was the way I approached (or, didn’t approach) it with my friends. Give them a heads up — they love you and need you for all of the above, too.
Baileys is only available to those over 18 years of age. Please drink responsibly.