Social fitness: Are we ready for life after lockdown in Derry ?

New research reveals some anxiety about socialising without restrictions, with 10% going as far as to say they are scared.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 11:53 am

While being able to meet up with family and friends for the first time in months will be a relief for many, the increased social interaction will take some getting used to.

People living in Northern Ireland feel least anxious with 63% having identified as feeling excited or relieved about the end of restrictions.

The survey also found that 22% of people in Northern Ireland are worried about their ability to readjust to normal levels of social interaction again with 11% concerned they have forgotten how to have a proper conversation.

Margaret Cunningham pictured with local children at a previous community event in Hazelbank.

Looking forward to fewer restrictions, The Big Lunch during June will offer people the opportunity to ease themselves back into socialising with a focus on neighbours and community.

Margaret Cunningham, Community Assistant at Habinteg Housing Association, Derry said: “The past year has been extremely difficult and with so many of us worried about post lockdown socialising, our annual Big Lunch activity at Farland Way is the perfect way to ease back into the social bubble with our friends, family and neighbours. It’s a great way to develop healthy inclusive relationships within our community.

“Obviously we will need to abide by any Covid restrictions but the coming weeks are going to be more promising and we are looking forward to our next planned themed event.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for everyone regardless of age to join in, outdoors and to celebrate community spirit.”

Margaret Cunningham.

The Big Lunch, an idea from the Eden Project, partnered by The National Lottery and supported by Iceland Foods, attracts millions of people each year.

It takes place from June 5 and many local communities are expected to take part. For more details see www.thebiglunch.com

During Mental Health Awareness Week this week, The Big Lunch is encouraging people in Derry to ‘sow seeds of friendship‘.

Grainne McCloskey, Northern Ireland Manager, The Big Lunch, said: “We are asking people in Derry to participate in The Big Lunch with acts of friendship this June. We can all play a part in easing out of lockdown safely, supporting our neighbours and reaching out to help rebuild community connections which will help ease loneliness and isolation.

“If everyone was to carry out one act of friendship where we live, whether that is to invite a few neighbours to lunch in the garden or park, organise something as a community group or to use your lunch break for acts of kindness and friendship, we could make all the difference to those around us.

“We are already identifying the negative mental health impact of lockdown, but are we all taking steps to support each other? We would love to see people growing their connections and we have some lovely free cornflower seed packs available to grow and share locally with neighbours. Join in at www.thebiglunch.com”

The findings of the new poll of 4,000 residents from across the UK show that many of us are worried about increasing social pressure now that lockdown measures are beginning to lift.

Over 55 per cent of the population feel anxious, apprehensive or scared about socialising without restrictions, with women feeling this the most.

One in five are worried about social pressure increasing post lockdown and many are also worried that they have forgotten how to have a proper conversation

However many more people now feel closer to their neighbours now, and almost three quarters of the population are now comfortable meeting small groups locally outside.

The Big Lunch is the UK’s annual big date to celebrate and give thanks to our neighbours and communities. Started in 2009, it’s an idea from the Eden Project that each year brings 6 million people together, made possible by The National Lottery and supported by new headline sponsors Iceland Foods. People meet, chat and have fun in their neighbourhoods, annually fundraising £8m for local causes they care about.