- Posted by Jon Harju
- On March 25, 2020
As the global pandemic of coronavirus evolves, and we’re called upon to practice physical distancing measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19, many people are experiencing feelings associated with isolation.
The importance of physical distancing
The World Health Organization is using the phrase “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” to highlight how we can prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. In a recent virtual press conference, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove emphasized the importance of practicing physical distancing from others to avoid the transfer of the virus. “We’re changing to say physical distance, and that’s on purpose because we want people to still remain connected.”
Van Kerkhove identified technology in helping us connect remotely, “but it doesn’t mean that socially we have to disconnect from our loved ones, from our family.”
Physical distancing has impacted our daily routines and interactions that take place in our workplaces, schools, retail stores, gyms, and the places that help us practice self-care. Since emotional connectedness is a cornerstone of healthy human interactions, it’s important to proactively seek out the things you can do to help take care of your mental well-being.
The importance of staying emotionally connected
Isolation can have negative effects on a persons’ mental health. Research has shown the impact of loneliness and isolation can be twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity. Specifically, periods of quarantine have been shown to increase negative emotions like anxiety, confusion, and anger.
Maintaining a sense of emotional connection can feel difficult when you’re facing physical distancing and quarantining. Chances are, you could spend days not talking to anyone if you live alone and don’t have to go anywhere to work. If isolation becomes too uncomfortable, remember that your mental health needs should not go unmet just because you’re physically distancing.
Here are 8 ways to increase your sense of emotional connection during physical distancing:
1. Schedule a virtual get-together
Make plans to video chat with people or groups you’d normally see in person and use this as an opportunity to connect with others overseas. Get creative and schedule some virtual dates connecting via video chat from your smartphone or device. Consider playing a game, cooking a meal, learning a musical instrument together or even a virtual dance party.
2. Tea break texting
Keep in touch with others by making a phone call or sending text messages as a part of your adapted daily routine. Try to take 5 minutes in your day for a cup of tea and to text a friend or perhaps call a loved one at the end of your working day. It’s all about reciprocally opening up to each other, sharing experiences and each person feeling heard.
3. Be social media savvy
Social media platforms are a great way to message and connect with friends and family. Remember, if you find yourself online more than usual or seeking peer support on the internet, it’s important to be mindful of your mental well-being. Limit your exposure to negativity and search for uplifting spaces with a sense of community.
4. Book club connections
Spending time at home is a great opportunity to read, so consider organizing a virtual book club with friends or check out some virtual book clubs that are already in place. This is a great way to accomplish a task, focus your mind while connecting and sharing your thoughts with others.
5. Virtual lunch break with your coworker
Giving yourself breaks throughout the working day is incredibly important to let your brain and body relax. But, are you missing your weekly lunch meet with a coworker? Why not schedule a virtual lunch break to recreate some aspects of your normal workday routine, via a fun video call.
6. Online volunteer projects
Physical distancing doesn’t have to stop you from supporting important causes. Did you know you can donate your time by volunteering online? Make a difference and check out the global and local virtual volunteer options.
7. Virtual learning
Many of us incorporate socialization into our week by heading to a class, such as learning a musical instrument, joining a yoga class or attending an art class. Check out the many virtual courses offered to continue your learning opportunities during this time and look out for the many fitness studios that have begun offering their classes through services like Zoom.
8. Yale University’s free happiness course
If you’re considering learning something new, you may find solace in joining the most popular class in the history of Yale. The Science of Well-Being is a free online version of the class taught at Yale University. The course engages students in a series of challenges designed to increase personal happiness and build productive habits. Consider organizing a group of friends to take the course with you, so you can connect virtually and discuss your thoughts and experience throughout.
We must maintain a social connection right now. Reach out to friends and family from afar and embrace the phone and video calls to be present with loved ones, while still staying safe. Whether it’s your family, friends, coworkers, or therapist, it’s essential to connect with others to help care for our mental well-being while assisting others to do the same. Staying connected with others will make us happier, healthier, and more socially responsible as we continue to contend with COVID-19.
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