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Staying connected while staying home

April 29, 2020
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We live in a strange and complicated time. The uncertainty of COVID-19 is forcing us all to settle into a “new normal” that includes closed businesses, cancelled events, working remotely, and, for some, homeschooling. While the benefit of these social distancing efforts — slowing the spread of the virus — is real and important, it’s not without other consequences.

By our very nature, we humans are social creatures. Even the most introverted among us need some contact and connection. In fact, studies have found that, over time, isolation can pose a health risk that rivals smoking and obesity. However, while social distancing presents some challenges to getting our social needs met, there are ways to stay connected and socialize safely.

Staying safe, staying connected

Here are 5 low and high-tech ideas to help you stay connected to your social circles:

1. Send some good old-fashioned snail mail: Even in the best of times, who doesn’t enjoy receiving a handwritten note or card? Dig out your address book and craft a “thinking of you” note to old friends and family. If you’re artistic, use the opportunity to engage your creative brain cells and paint, draw, or doodle an image. You’ll benefit from the creative exercise and you’ll bring a smile to the recipient’s face. You can even buy stamps online.

2. Talk to one friend a day: Here’s an idea: use your phone as an actual phone. Carve out five to ten minutes a day to call a friend or family member. Hearing another person’s voice or, better yet, their laughter, can lift your spirits and help you both feel closer.Meet up online: There are lots of online programs and apps — Zoom, WebEx, FaceTime, to name a few — that allow you to gather virtually with friends. Most are free and easy to use. If you have a phone or a computer, you can pull together groups as small as two or up to twenty or more, for conversation, cocktails, book club, or to talk about the latest shows you’ve been streaming (or bingeing, as the case may be).

3. Read to kids at bedtime: If you’re missing the wee ones in your life, you can connect using FaceTime or Skype to read a book at bedtime or even in the middle of the day when work-from-home parents might just need a break. NOTE: If you’re feeling less than savvy about using technology to connect, ask a friend or relative for help. Grandkids, nieces, and nephews in their teens and twenties can be a great source of tech support and, for once, you can actually find them at home to help. Alternatively, YouTube is filled with easy to find and follow tutorials.

4. Expand your virtual boundaries: Many institutions, including museums, national parks, universities, zoos, theme parks, and even The Vatican and NASA are offering free online tours. Set up a time to “visit” these places together with friends and loved ones, each logging in from your own device and chatting by phone.

5. Stream a class: Whether you want to learn to cook, knit, do yoga, meditate, or more, there’s more than likely an online class to help you do it. Many classes are taught live in group sessions meaning classes not only let you expand your skill, set but your social circle, too. 

While you may feel alone during this time of social distancing, the truth is we’re all in this together. It’s important to remember that the more seriously we take this, the sooner the spread of COVID-19 will come to an end. Trying a few of the suggested ideas can make the days ahead a bit more enjoyable. And who knows. At the end of it all, embracing these ideas and the distance might just make us all feel closer than ever.

Learn more coping strategies for mental health and self care.