For all of us, staying safe and healthy during COVID-19 has come at a cost. Social distancing has dealt a blow to our usual patterns, none as much as our cycles of connection with each other. It can be so easy to feel cut off without our normal avenues for socialization, while we watch anniversaries and birthdays and events pass us by. But like most things, there is an opportunity in the challenge. Even though we don’t know when “normal” will return to us, we can still work to create a little normalcy now.
Distanced doesn’t have to mean alone. The people we love don’t disappear simply because we can’t see them right now; if we make the effort to remind ourselves of all the relationships we have and work to exercise those connections even though it’s become more difficult, we can arm ourselves against the feelings of loneliness that this time of isolation can bring. Remaining aware of all the relationships we have, and remembering that we will not be separated forever, are incredible assets to have as we face the pandemic. Here are a few ways we can all feel closer together even while we stay apart.
Apps like Zoom, Skype, Facetime and WhatsApp give us a gift that our ancestors couldn’t have imagined: being able to see our loved ones’ faces even when they’re far away. As humans we crave face-to-face contact with each other to feel like we belong; it’s amazing how much seeing a friend or relative can help us feel connected. Multi-person video chats can go even further toward recreating our social lives online; consider starting a book club, movie night or even a weekly “dinner party” to get your friend group to spend a little time together. It might feel awkward at first but seeing so many faces at once will serve as a reminder that you’re not alone. It’s worth noting, though, that video calls can cost a lot more energy than normal face-to-face. Be sure you plan your day accordingly to avoid burnout.
Social sites like Instagram and Facebook can help us feel like we still know what’s going on in our loved ones’ lives even when we can’t see them. Getting to share about a personal achievement can remind us of the community we have, and being able to comment on our friends’ small victories can help us feel more like a part of each others’ lives.
As our technology has advanced, phone calls have become less and less necessary to our daily lives. But what better time than the present to expand our methods of communication? Phone calls are a great way to involve our loved ones in our everyday routine; calling an old friend while you take a distanced walk or do a chore can help this time feel a bit more normal. For the sake of consistency I always find it’s best to set a time boundary; choose a time of day you want to devote to phone calls and let the person you’re calling know how much time you have. This will allow you to feel connected without becoming drained or overwhelmed.
Receiving a letter from a loved one is always such an incredible surprise. In a time where so many of our interactions are virtual and digital, having a physical, tactile reminder that we are loved is a precious thing. It shows intentionality and care, and letters you send today can be saved for years as a reminder of your connection in this specific moment in time. If you have a printer, printing up photos from your life can help your loved ones feel like they’re a part of it all. This is also a great occasion to work through old cards or stationery that you haven’t had an opportunity to use yet.
Reaching Out To Neighbors
In my neighborhood, I’ve noticed that a lot of us tend to take our walks around the same time each afternoon. Before the stay at home measures, most people would be out at their jobs all day and only home in the evenings. Now that we’re spending more time at home, we have so many more opportunities to interact with each other as a community. This is a great time to get to know the people who live closest to you and start building new connections while you maintain your old ones. If you encounter someone on a walk or while you’re getting mail, start a brief (and distanced) conversation. See if there’s anything they need. If you have extra supplies, consider sanitizing them and leaving them on a neighbor’s doorstep. It’s never been easier to start connecting with people we might not have had time for before.
Life under quarantine can be a difficult and scary experience. But with some intentionality, kindness, and empathy we can choose to make our worlds feel a little less separate.