As you adjust to the physically-distanced situation, it’s important to recognize the power and benefits of your connections—connections with people you might live with, and also connections outside your house.
Connection is good for your health
Stress, anxiety, and depression are health risks associated with social isolation, but staying connected—within the boundaries allowed right now—can help us stay healthy (1). Research has shown that social connectedness creates a positive feedback loop that fosters social, emotional, and physical well-being (2). This is true for ourselves, and also It’s also important to look out for the older people in our social circles, as they may be more susceptible to the negative effects of social isolation and loneliness. People who live alone, those who have experienced recent loss, and caregivers are all at risk of increased mental and emotional strain (3). Also at risk are individuals who already struggle with health problems like anxiety, depression, and issues related to substance abuse. (4).
Connect with your family and friends
Even though we’re limiited in our physical connection with friends and family, we can lean on our social networks to help manage stress. Spending physical face-to-face with people is ideal to build social connectedness, but knowing that you have someone if you need them—a perceived social connection—is enough to lower stress responses (4). Check on your friends and family—even those who seem well. Everyone is living with some disappointment over canceled or postponed vacation plans, opportunities, or celebrations (1). If you’re not already on the video chat bandwagon, give it a try. While it’s not the same as in-person contact, seeing a familiar face can be better than simply texting or emailing (4). Consider a video chat with someone who lives alone and just hang out, share a meal, or even exercise together. It might help to have a few positive conversation ideas up your sleeve (5).
Connect with your kids
Children are considered a vulnerable group of social isolation and physical distancing (1). We can help our kids by supporting them with ways to stay connected. Try to set up opportunities for your children to connect with their peers and people who share common interests. You could set up virtual video game tournaments, encourage them to send messages to their classmates, or arrange chats with friends and family. If your child is missing their extracurricular activities, take advantage of online sessions.
Connect with your colleagues
If you’re working from home, you’re probably using video for meetings. Formalities are important, but we also need some of the not-work-related social interactions. One study showed that over 40% of employees rate teamwork as a really important aspect of their job satisfaction (5). Try to schedule some social time to connect with your colleagues, and keep this time free from work discussions. You can try a virtual happy hour, a fitness challenge, or even just send a colleague a non-work related note if you’re thinking of them. The Carebook team has replaced our weekly in-office bagel breakfast with a virtual version and we have an optional Friday after-work gathering. While they’re not the same (and some colleagues expressed that they missed our in-person get-togethers), they provide some time for personal connection.
Connect with your community
Feeling connected to your community has a positive impact on mental and emotional wellbeing and gives us a greater sense of belonging and purpose (6). Get creative as you look for ways to stay connected to your community. Maybe start with being a good neighbor. Say hi when you’re out and about, offer to shop if you’re going for groceries, or drop off homemade treats. If it’s in your budget, you can support local businesses by ordering take out from local restaurants, or even buy gift cards that can be used for goods and services when your locally owned stores re-open. You can also look for volunteer opportunities as a way to give back.