This week, your world may look much different than it did just 7 days ago. With the constantly changing situation regarding Covid-19, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, alone, and disconnected. As State and Federal governments are recommending social distancing to reduce the spread and impact of this virus, it is important to find new and creative ways to stay connected and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. While I often recommend in person communication, less virtual or online connection and less screen time as a practice of self-care, this is a unique situation as we explore how to maintain positive, healthy relationships during a crisis when in person hang-outs are to be limited if not avoided altogether.
Here are a few simple ideas of ways to find connection while practicing social distancing:
–Start a virtual book club. Choose a book to read together and discuss with friends via virtual, online meeting, facebook group or email chain. This can be a way to fill some of your extra downtime while also being able to connect and share with friends.
–Try a recipe swap. Food is a great way to feel connected with others and sharing recipes can be a way to not only feel closer, but also enjoy new dishes! Focus on memories with the person that shared the recipe with you, take your time with each step of the dish and share pictures or video with friends to pass along the recipe to others. It can be like cooking together, but in your own kitchen.
–Watch shows “together”. Wanting to start a marathon of a new show or reruns of an old favorite? Connect with a friend or group of friends to stream it together and be able to text, call or tweet your reactions to one another. Gasp at the cliffhangers, become angry with the villain and laugh at the mishaps as a way to feel like you are together, while staying safely apart.
–Play online video or mobile games. While this may not be something you have spent much time doing, online and mobile games can be a great way to play and connect with friends virtually. Challenge a friend in Words with Friends or Trivia Crack, download a new video game that is multi-player, chat online or mic up and talk while playing. This can be a great way to reduce feelings of isolation or loneliness even if you are home alone.
–Express yourself! Art, or other creative, expressive activities can be a fun way to pass the time. Add in some relationship and connection by creating art, cards, letters and pictures for those on your street, a local shelter or nursing home. Taking time to care for others can feel rewarding and as a way to reach out during this difficult time.
–Connect with nature. Sometimes our need for connection does not have to be with another human but can be with the world around us. Take a solo hike or bike ride and work to be mindful about this experience. What do you see, hear and feel on this excursion? How does being in nature help you feel connected to the world around you?
–Explore the world around you and add a virtual travel buddy. Many zoos, museums and National Parks are doing virtual visits as a way for people to reduce isolation and feelings of being stuck inside. Artists and musicians are live streaming shows, doing art tutorials and book readings. Find a few that seem interesting and call a friend to “walk” through the museum with you.
–Find a furry friend. Reach out to your local animal shelter and become a foster for a dog or cat in need. Just as we can connect with nature, we can also find connection in animals. Maybe a full time pet is too big of a commitment for you, but with your new work from home schedule and reduced social calendar you have the time and ability to foster. This can be a great way to bridge the gap between a shelter and their forever home, while also reducing loneliness for you and your foster animal!
–Pick up the phone or video chat. During our usual on-the-go schedule, we often lose touch with friends as we don’t find the time to pick up the phone and call. This is a great time to change that! Reach out to an old friend, college roommate, work colleague that you are missing and spend some time talking on the phone or chatting via FaceTime or Skype. This simple step can reconnect you with a friend or help reduce the loneliness of this current season.
–Treat yourself. There may be times that you are not able to connect with others, even virtually. It is okay to be extra kind and gentle with yourself during this time. Take naps, read a good book, enjoy your favorite cup of coffee or tea, try out a weighted blanket for some additional sensory stimulation. This season may be difficult, and it is important to take care of yourself.
Choosing to practice social distancing can be a difficult task, but is also absolutely necessary to slow the progression of Covid-19 and keep those around us safe. It is important to practice good self-care during this time and reaching out to friends, finding connecting and creating new traditions with others is a step toward taking care of you. Start with these ideas, or brainstorm your own in the hope that in the future we can look back at this season as a time of increased connection, creativity and care.