I was speaking to a friend yesterday who is having to self isolate for a week. She has some mild flu-like symptoms, but her biggest concern was her mental well-being over the next week if she’s not able to see anybody face to face. It really got me thinking about whether there are ways that we can foster connection and connectedness when we literally can’t meet up with other people.
It’s not just a coronavirus thing – a lot of people might find themselves in a situation where they don’t feel like they can go out and socialise, but still want to belong to a community and don’t want to feel isolated. For example, new parents, people struggling with anxiety or depression, or people who have ongoing challenges with their physical health or energy levels might go through periods of not being able to go out easily and feeling isolated without knowing what to do or how to connect with others. I came up with a few ideas that I personally want to put into practice that I thought I would share with you.
There are people that I speak to quite regularly over the phone, but perhaps I can go on video with them more. Then there are other friends that I perhaps only message every once in a while, but they’re really great friends and we have amazing conversations when we meet up face to face. Yesterday I spoke on video with a friend who I used to work with – she’s based in the US and we spoke for an hour and a half about all sorts of things. We’ve only ever met maybe once in person, but I don’t feel like she’s any less of a friend because of that, so definitely want to be doing more video calls!
Connecting with local groups
I’ve been researching groups in my community or neighbourhood and there’s a creative club in my area that meet regularly to socialise whilst working on any personal creative projects. I only just found out about them and so I’ve connected with them online and I’m planning to go along to one of the next events. Perhaps there are groups that you can find online and start connecting with virtually that you can then get involved with face to face once you are able to? It could be a good way of softening that initial face to face meeting as well if you feel like you’ve already starting building a connection online. Perhaps there’s a group that you can create and use this time to work on an idea, open it up to your local community and find people who might have a similar interest? If you’re not personally having to isolate, could you support local initiatives to help people that are? Could you drop a note to your neighbours to see if they want to start a group on Facebook or WhatsApp to help support each other?
There’s something so special about putting together a package to send in the post to a friend. It’s something I really want to start doing more of and now feels like as good a time as any to start! You could write a letter on some lovely paper and send it along with a photograph or even a little care package. One trick is to end the letter with a few questions so that they have some prompts to reply with. I might use something like “What have you read lately that you would recommend?” or “Have you tried any great recipes lately?”
My last thought might sound like the opposite of connection, but it’s learning how to be alone. If you’re not used to it, being alone for any length of time can be overwhelming, but it can be a really good opportunity to look inwardly and think about being more connected within yourself. Can you close your eyes for just 5 minutes and listen to the room around you, then listen to your breath? It’s not about calming the mind necessarily, but learning how active your mind is and just observing that without judging yourself. Do you recognise your inner dialogue? How do you talk to yourself when you’re alone? Are you punishing yourself without realising when things don’t go perfectly? Could you be kinder?
None of this is groundbreaking and I don’t claim to be some great teacher, but I wanted to share the things I’m thinking about and trying to personally cultivate during this time. I’d love to hear how you’ve been feeling about the current situation and any worries or reflections you might have at this time.