This is a COMPILATION PROJECT where tips/suggestions/advice all about social self care are presented by our collective brain. It’s an ongoing piece and we will keep adding to it.
By SOCIAL SELF CARE, I specifically mean how to sustain good relationships and communication with people in friend contexts and more professional contexts. This includes: how to be better at replying to things, navigating anxieties around talking to people, practical advice and reassurances, etc.
The premise of this is that is that social skills are SKILLS that can be developed rather than natural instincts that everyone has. Communication skills are incredibly important but also seem to be where a lot of our anxieties, insecurities and misunderstandings emerge. I hope we can destigmatise the stress of communication, make allowances for each other and learn ways to improve.
in this A to Z there will be lots of ideas – some of them conflicting – and most of them will not apply to you or be useful. they are not instructions to follow. the dream is that there will be something here that can be useful or reassuring. if you take issue with any of the advice or have your own to share, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
B is for Being Realistic
Be realistic about how much you can take on and how much you can squeeze into a day, and crucially be realistic about other people. If someone hasn’t texted you back, it’s probably because they meant to and forgot, they’re really busy, they didn’t see it or they thought they already had. Other people are shit at communicating too.
C is for Communication
Emails, texts, phone calls, skype calls, snapchat, memes, letters, postcards, zines, lists, mind maps: there are so many ways to communicate. Lots of people find phone calls too overwhelming or really struggle to reply to texts. Essentially simple tasks take on a lot of weight when you’re anxious, meaning that a text is not just a text, it’s much more. Luckily there is such a variety that there will always be a least worst option and less pressurey ways to keep hold of pals.
D is for Double Texting
Double texting is OK. Better yet, develop a stream-of-consciousness-style live-text persona and you will have paved opportunities for triple, quadruple texting and more.
D is for Dry
There are lots of alcohol-free ways to hang out! Off the top of my head: picnics, films, Christmas markets, sleepovers, film nights, tv marathons, baking, cooking a meal together (Sunday dinner mmm), getting coffee, shopping, gigs, art, etc.
G is for Guilt
Easier said than done but STOP FEELING GUILTY for bailing on plans or replying late to texts. Your friends don’t want you to beat yourself up over things, they just want to know if you’re OK and how to help you if you’re not OK.
Of course it would be great if you had your shit together enough to respond to messages (+ hopefully you can pick up some good strategies in this guide) but the bottom line is that guilt is unhelpful. No one benefits when you feel guilty, especially not you: guilt is all about self-punishing.
H is for Honesty
Scary as shit but necessary. Tell your friends and family how you are feeling. Tell at least one person at any rate. You can’t keep it bottled up and it will be better once you have shared it. People can’t adapt to your needs if they don’t know what they are.
L is for Letters
Letters are for when you need to make your friend feel special, when you have something to say that feels too big for a text, when you are feeling nostalgic for the olden days, when you are procrastinating from other things in your life, when you have been staring at a screen for too long and you need a break. IMPORTANTLY it’s all about self care. It involves arts/crafts/doodling, often writing your feelings down and you have to leave the house in order to post it.
M is for Mind Reading
No one is a mind reader. If you’re feeling on edge, you might assume that people know how you’re feeling: that they just know all the embarrassing, insecure things you’re thinking. On the flip side, you might start to resent your friends if you think they haven’t picked up on all the little hints you’ve dropped about how you’re feeling. Those hints that are obvious to you are not obvious to other people. People around you aren’t picking apart your every move and they will need it spelled out more clearly if you want to communicate something.
P is for Practice
Practice makes perfect, or at the very least, better. The more you talk to people, the easier it will become. Social skills are SKILLS. It’s not natural or organic to make/keep friends, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t got the hang of it. Skills require practice and some fuck ups along the way, as well as time and effort. Congratulate yourself when you’ve made plans and stuck to them and appreciate your strength when you’ve been honest to people.
R is for Romance
“You know that it’s a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder” is an inspo quote from Paul McCartney that I can get behind. Don’t play it cool. Stay romantic to your pals: buy flowers, dedicate zines, shower in compliments, write poetry and hold their hair.
Date mentality is good for first friend dates – when you see how it goes with a potential new friend – like you’re on a mission to find out more about them & putting your phone away to demonstrate full interest.
T is for Time Out
Social fatigue is real and you need to leave room for alone time too. Some people need lots more than others and that is cool. Reading about self care, you will always come across the reminder to take time for yourself. Rest and regroup before facing the outside world again. Careful though, it’s very easy to slip into a cycle of “self care time out” which is actually a policy of isolation.
W is for What Works
Work out what works for you. Maybe it’s setting times in your day when you answer all your texts at once, viewing it as an administrative task. Maybe you’ll want to write down what you want to text beforehand to clarify it in your head before pressing send. Or it’s writing letters to people instead of face to face communication. It might be that you take a friend with you to an appointment or that you develop ways in which to signal your moods to people, eg. purely in facebook stickers.
I’ve wanted to write about social self care for awhile but I wasn’t sure how to present it or even start to write in a way that let my ideas out. Then I read a great zine (A to Z of Freshers in Edinburgh by my friend Ruby) and found this format is a good way to draw things out.
W is for White Lies
This goes against H for Honesty but sometimes a white lie is what you need. I often tell people I’m bad at names when we’re introduced to allow for future mistakes and pre-emptively alleviate some awkwardness. I’m not even that bad at names, I just like to say it as insurance. What I am bad at is remembering faces but that seems more offensive to admit.