As we collectively hunker down across the United States to help reduce the rate of COVID-19 infections, many of us are feeling the effects of limited social interactions. Social distancing—intentionally increasing the physical distance between people, often at a minimum of 6 feet, to avoid spreading the disease—is crucial to combating the pandemic and the reason why many schools and offices are closed.
While social distancing is a must, feelings of isolation don’t have to be. In fact, finding ways to maintain connection with others is important for your mental health. Stress, insomnia, and emotional exhaustion can all flare when we lack the sociality we’re used to. Fortunately, there are ways to combat loneliness while still following stay-at-home orders.
Start with the easiest: a phone call, text, or video chat can provide an instant pick-me-up when you feel like you’re ready to climb the walls. Try going beyond your regular contacts and check in with people you don’t normally speak with on a daily basis.
If you feel like you’ve run out of small talk on these calls, it’s time to get creative. You can watch a movie or tv show together (just press play at the same time, and then you can comment away while you watch), have a virtual dinner party (everyone eats a meal of their choosing via video chat), or even play a party game together (charades, celebrity, or a board game that everyone has can work). With a little advance notice, you can even have a virtual family reunion or host a book club for friends. And don’t forget about meeting friends and family in the virtual world. Online gaming offers dynamic and entertaining venues for making social connections with people in your life.
And if you’re in the mood to connect, but don’t feel like doing all the talking, there are tons of live events happening online right now. Check out lists of concerts, art events, fitness classes, and even courses if you’d like to learn a new skill.
This can also be a great time to spread some cheer through the mail, both virtually or through the good ole’ post office. An email, letter, or handmade card can make someone’s day. You can even print out a cartoon or photo to tuck inside as an added surprise for your recipient.
If you’re in the mood to make a card or write a letter, there are two groups of people who would love some support right now, and you can easily participate in projects specially designed for them. Elderly people in nursing homes have even fewer visitors than normal since they’re in a high-risk demographic, but you can help them feel less isolated by sending them mail through the program Love for the Elderly. You can also show US soldiers some love by sending them cards through Operation Gratitude.
We can also support our communities and essential workers while still maintaining social distancing standards.
For example, public displays can show support for our essential workers. You can create and hang signs and banners in windows or post lawn signs thanking sanitation workers, delivery drivers, healthcare workers, or any of the hard working members of our community for their unending support and dedication.
Seeing people out and about can have a huge impact on community morale, but how do you do that when staying home as instructed? Here are some inspiring news stories that may give you some ideas:
- Hanging Christmas lights: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/well/family/coronavirus-quarantine-christmas-lights.html
- Teacher parades to wave hello to students: https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/local/2020/03/31/coronavirus-teacher-parades-social-distancing-ventura-county-california-quarantine/2929653001/
- “Bear hunts” around the country: https://patch.com/north-carolina/davidson/davidson-residents-combat-coronavirus-boredom-bear-hunt
Keep in mind that some days will be easier than others. But a quick walk around the block (wave at people from 6 feet away!), phone call, letter, or class can do wonders. Plus, while you may be doing fine, you never know who could use your cheer! Helping each other is how we’ll #flattenthecurve and get through this together.