Updated: Oct 21, 2020
Finding ways to stay close during quarantine.
Physical Distancing, not Social Distancing
One important distinction that the media should be making is that people should be physically distancing, not socially distancing. Physical distancing implies that we will physically maintain distance to protect health during the quarantine period. Social distancing implies not socializing with people we care about or are connected to because of the quarantine. We can be physically distant while still socializing. Technology now allows us to maintain social connections via social media, video chat, smart phones, and email. The problem with people socially distancing rather than physically distancing is that it can increase symptoms of anxiety, depression, and isolation, all of which work against us during times of distress.
Wired for Connection
Did you know that humans are hard wired for connection? Our neurology, physiology and psychology wires all people to connect with others. Attachment is actually hardwired as a survival instinct in the oldest part of the brain, the amygdala. Neuroscience has also demonstrated that when we feel disconnected from others, it activates the parts of the brain that register physical pain and mobilizes our nervous system for fight or flight responses. Isolation is encoded by the brain as a danger cue and physically painful; this is why isolation is used as a form of punishment or torture in the prison system. When we are going through a hard time, we need connection more than ever, and not getting it activates our nervous system and mobilizes us into fight or flight. Mobilizing our body into flight or flights redirects our physical energy away from fighting disease and into prioritizing the fact that we don't have connection. Having strong solid attachments and maintain healthy connection is so vital to our body's ability to fight disease and maintain psychological resilience.
How To Stay Connected when we Can't Be Physically Close:
Now that we know that connection matters, what can you do to maintain social connections while remaining physically close?
Set up weekly video chat calls with your friends and family
Set up regular meetings with your siblings, parents, favorite aunt, and besties every week that you're on lock down to maintain some forms of socialization. This can help break up the monotony, and decrease feelings of isolation.
Maintain weekly date night even though you can't out to restaurants
This may require you to get inventive and stash the kids in their rooms with a Disney movie while you picnic in the living room. With schedules being out of whack and both spouses/partners being home more than usual, some even 24/7 during quarantine, some couples use the quantity of time together as an excuse to not spend quality time together. Maintaining these connection rituals allow couples to focus specifically on deepening your connection and working on your relationship.
Go for daily walks with your friends while on video chat
So you can't get together and hang out in person, doesn't mean you can't get together over the phone and share the great outdoors with your friends as you walk the neighborhood and get your daily exercise.
Meet at the same grocery store to get your shopping done
Even though you can't hang out at the coffee shop or go to your favorite store in the mall, since you and your friends all have to shop for groceries and toilet paper anyway, why not schedule your trips for the same time at the same store, and give yourself some semblance of shopping together.
Check in via text with people you're close to a couple times a week
You may not be able to have regular hang outs, but being friendly and social via texting with your friends just to drop a line and say "hey how are you doing?" can a long way, especially with friends that are single and really feeling isolated during Corona Virus. It can remind your friends and loved ones that they're loved, thought of, care for, and that they matter.
Have Game or Movie Nights with your friend Virtually
It may sound cheesy, but since people can't gather together in person, still get together and turn on your video chat or Zoom while each of you watch the same movies together, eat food, or play party games like trivia.
Have your morning coffee/tea over video chat with friends
Give yourself a ritual of connection to look forward to in the morning. Have a friend that's single? Chances are they're really feeling the distance. Call them in the mornings over a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the morning light.
Staying physically distant doesn't mean we have to be socially distant and disconnected! Use what you have to stay connected, stay social, and help each other know they're not alone as we all get through this healthy and even more connected than before!