Social distancing is one the strongest tools we have to save lives and slow the spread of the coronavirus. Yet for many of us, the practice is difficult; while social distancing keeps us and others safe, it also challenges our important need for connection.
Whether you live alone or in a home full of people, practicing social distancing can lead to feelings of isolation, which can take a toll on your mental health. Fortunately, the steps below can help you combat isolation and stay safely connected, both online and offline, to others during this time.
Connect over technology
Using technology to connect is a great way to speak with and see each other while social distancing. Consider the following:
- Watch movie while on the phone with a friend.
- Have a dinner delivered to a romantic partner or new date and eat together over a video chat.
- Schedule weekly video calls with family. Catch up on each other’s lives or play an online game together.
Connect other ways
If you do not have access to video chat technology, if you find technology isn’t working and is causing more stress, or if you’re experiencing Skype fatigue after a long day of telecommuting, the idea of connecting over technology many not cut it. Fortunately, there are many ways to connect with loved ones while social distancing that do not include technology. Consider the following:
- Write letters. In the days before the internet, writing letters was a common practice to help keep people connected. The excitement of checking the mailbox and opening a letter to read how your friends or family are doing can be the bright spot of your day.
- Make something for someone else. Making a card or handcrafted gift for another person can have multiple benefits; it helps you feel more connected to that person when they aren’t near and it helps exercise a different area of your brain which can reduce depression and anxiety. When you are making the gift, try to think about the person: what are some of your best memories with them? What would that person say to you right now if you could be together? What is the first thing you want to do together once you are able to see each other?
- Connect through shared recipes. Almost every culture, community, and family has traditions around the making and sharing of food. Consider making your loved one’s favorite dish and enjoying it. For example, if you have fond memories of baking cookies with your mother, bake a batch. Or if you want to try something new, consider reaching out to your family and friends and asking them for their favorite meal or dessert. Then, make a whole meal out of your loved one’s favorites. Enjoy it at home with yourself or family, or drop off care packages to neighbors, friends, and family in the area with a note explaining why each dish is special or important.
- Connect with your heritage or culture. Many of us may feel adrift without our communities. Taking some time to research the history of your family or people may help you feel more anchored in your heritage and culture. This month is also Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, so perhaps take this opportunity to learn more about Asian/Pacific American culture and history. Or discover more about Latinx culture by taking an online tour of the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum, or check out the some of the collections at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian. You may discover things you never knew about yourself and your family or people. (A note of caution: sometimes the history of our ancestors can be difficult. Remember to give yourself grace.)
- Connect with yourself. Prior to the pandemic, many of us lived in a fast-paced world and didn’t take time for self-reflection or self-care. Many of us are still in that fast-paced world now, while others of us have transitioned into a world that is unfamiliarly slow. And many of us are now juggling care of family members or schooling for children while working remotely and continuing to serve our community. Wherever you find yourself, making time for yourself is more important now than ever. Self-refection can help us take stock of where we are and of where we want to go in the future. Thinking about our actions and behaviors can help us understand our patterns, and how the patterns play out in our lives, bringing a stronger connection to ourselves and how we interact with our environments. Try journaling, painting, drawing, or creating something.
Finding connection and meaning while social distancing can help decrease feelings of isolation and depression and can help us find deeper meaning to the connections we have. During Mental Health Month, think about how you can connect more with yourself and your loved ones. If you find a way that works for you, share it! It may be just the thing that helps someone else.
If you are struggling, know that there are counselors available 24/7 through Making Life Easier and King County’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Making Life Easier can be reached by calling 1-888-874-7290. EAP staff are available by phone at 206-263-8733 or via email at HRDEAP@kingcounty.gov.
We are here for you. Contact us anytime.