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Staying Connected Despite Social Distancing

Family yoga You know that social distancing and staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic are important, but did you also know that social interaction is necessary to both mental and physical health? Social isolation has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, stroke, and even the common cold! In addition, isolated people are more likely to smoke or use alcohol.

Living with people is no guarantee that you won’t feel lonely, especially during quarantine or while social distancing. Talking things over with friends is a good way to deal with stress and worry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. Without the distractions of your everyday routines, relationships with the other people in your household can become tense. On top of helping your children, partner, roommates, or elderly parents find their footing, you may be struggling to maintain your own.

Here are some suggestions that may help you maintain important relationships and avoid feeling lonely.

Find Creative Ways to Connect with Friends

You may not be able to meet friends or extended family in person, but with a little creativity, you may be able to come close to recreating your regular social life.

Video-conferencing applications—FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, and Skype, for example—make it possible for you to meet with your book club, get together with your neighbors for trivia night, plan a virtual open-mic night so that friends can perform for one another, or host a dinner party or happy hour. Your kids could have virtual playdates or watch movies with their friends on a movie-streaming service.

You can even use these apps to connect with distant friends and relatives who you might not have seen for a while.

And don’t forget to exercise! Look into online workouts, as long as they allow for live interaction and aren’t just pre-recorded instructional videos. Even though gyms are closed, many are offering group workout sessions online.

Is old-school communication more your speed? Send an email or text, pick up the phone, or even write a letter. Just try to connect once every day with someone who can support you. In times of stress, people need social support—particularly from friends.

Connect Respectfully with Members of Your Household

It’s important to stay connected with the people you live with while also respecting boundaries.

Come up with schedules for chores (so they don’t all fall to one person), for work or school activities, and for fun and relaxation—both as a group and as individuals.

Household projects and group activities can offer a sense of accomplishment when you can work together toward a shared goal. (Just don’t try them when you’re tired of each other.) Clean out closets or bookshelves, tackle a complicated recipe, or work on a challenging jigsaw puzzle. Read or binge-watch a favorite series. Let your kids suggest group activities and try to adopt as many of their suggestions as possible. Doing so might make them feel invested and more willing to take part. However, if your children decline to participate, don’t take it personally.

Find sanctuary. When space is at a premium, it’s important for everyone to have a quiet place to work, relax, study, or get away. If shared areas have to double as these retreat spaces, invent signals to let others know when it’s okay to interrupt. For example, leave the door of a bedroom or blanket fort open, half-open, or closed; or keep the door closed but hang a green, yellow, or red tag on the doorknob.

Connect with Yourself

Taking time for yourself may seem impossible when you’re confined with others, but connecting with yourself is an important way to reduce your own tension and stress.

When you feel overwhelmed, retreat to your quiet place and put your “do not disturb” signal up. Then focus on what you need, whether that’s to sit quietly and pray or meditate, or to take care of one small chore that’s in your control: Fold the laundry, for example, or turn off your computer and clean off your desk. Sort through any mail that’s piled up, tossing or recycling what you can and filing what you need to take care of.

Identify your feelings. Take time to write in a journal, or go for a walk alone and pay attention to your thoughts without deciding whether they are good or bad.

Engage in quiet activities. Knit, play the piano, paint. Creativity can provide a feeling of accomplishment and tap into emotions that may bring peace.