With the rise of COVID-19 throughout Australia and Government advising that we all practice social distancing even if we appear healthy, socialising is becoming more and more of a challenge.
At the time of writing, this advice has seen the cancellation of large events and smaller groups and organisations have also moved to cancel events and regular activities. Many workplaces have asked their staff to work from home.
While it’s crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19, practising social distancing will result in fewer face-to-face interactions, which can increase the risk of loneliness. Positive social support can be very helpful during stressful times. Hugging loved ones or meeting up with friends are things that we take for granted, and studies have shown that cultivating our social networks can enhance resilience to stress.
So, what can you do to stay connected whilst practicing social distancing?
Get face-to-face time – virtually
Studies have shown that seeing facial expressions can increase our emotional connection so if you have access to it, use video to connect with your loved ones. Why not host a virtual party? Or hold your own online pub quiz? Apps such as House Party and Zoom are great for getting groups together in a virtual setting.
Make connections at home
If you live with a partner or friend, use this time to deepen your connection. Perhaps you could learn a new skill together, tackle a challenging puzzle or game as a team or work on a project around the house or garden. Even just taking some time away from the TV or phone to have a conversation over a cup of tea can help you feel closer.
Offer your support
Reach out to people in your neighbourhood who may be more vulnerable than you – while practising social distancing, of course! If you have an elderly neighbour, why not drop a note through their door offering your help and support? Small acts of kindness like picking up groceries and leaving them on their doorstep or offering to walk their dog could make all the difference, and probably make you feel really good too. If you have any cold or flu symptoms, however, the most important act of kindness you could probably do is to stay inside and limit contact with people, particularly vulnerable members of the community.
Put pen to paper
In our fast-paced world we barely have time to return a text, let alone write our loved ones a heartfelt letter. However, with the world forcing us to slow down, now is a great time to show your loved ones you care. Writing a letter or even a long email to your relatives could help you feel more connected to them.
Could you chat to your neighbours through the fence or from adjacent windows? Human beings are innately social creatures and social interactions, even just for a few minutes here and there, can provide a real boost to the way we feel.