It’s no secret that the past few months have been isolating for many people due to vigilant social distancing and the cancellation of numerous day-to-day activities. The pause on daily life, though somewhat lifted in certain parts of the United States, can still be felt by many—especially by people who live alone, have challenging home situations, or are going through life transitions. Maybe you have experienced isolation and its effects due to the disruptions to normal life over the recent months. Now more than ever it is important to ensure that we take care of ourselves and lean into our support networks to prevent feelings of discouragement, loneliness, and lethargy. Below are a few ideas on how to cultivate community during COVID-19 to take care of your emotional health and well-being.
Capitalize on Summer Weather
Not only does getting a little vitamin D from being out in the sunshine improve your mood, but it’s also the safest way to see friends if you’re feeling cooped up inside. Try going for a walk with a friend, having a picnic at the park, or even sitting in a car in a parking lot with your windows rolled down. Or play a low-contact sport with a friend. If you live within walking distance of some of your friends, maybe walk to their house with a treat to brighten their day, or leave a note at their door if they are a person at high-risk for COVID-19. If you go on walks or runs by yourself, wave and smile at others to spread positivity. Getting fresh air is crucial to fighting those feelings of loneliness or hopelessness that being stuck inside tends to bring on. Pair that with quality time with a friend or making a trip to send someone some love—or even smiling at a stranger—and you might find that it lifts your spirits too.
Zoom, zoom, zoom!
Zoom: tried and true. Thankfully, technology enables us to see and speak with those with love no matter how far away they may be. Get creative with Zoom or Skype calls by establishing standing virtual coffee or tea dates, hosting trivia nights with extended family or friends, doing virtual yoga or fitness class with a friend, or even catching up on your favorite shows or watching a movie via screen sharing features. Take advantage of ways to connect with friends and family online if you can. Chances are, if you can think it, you can Zoom it.
It can be easy to hide our true emotions behind a screen and put on masks that guise how we really feel when we’re not face-to-face with others. COVID-19 has created loss for many people where it did not exist before, or, at minimum, has caused a disruption of normalcy in our day-to- day lives. It is important to honor your emotions. Try to share how you are really feeling as often as you can with a trusted friend or family member or someone you don’t have to “put on a brave face” with. An expression of vulnerability also often evokes vulnerability from others too. You might find that sharing openly and honestly with someone about how you are really doing in the midst of such a globally turbulent time might be the invitation that someone else needs to share how he or she is feeling as well. Cultivating relationships that ‘go deep’ are great sources of strength and support, helping us to feel less alone.
Don’t be afraid to reach out first
If someone you know comes to mind who you haven’t heard from in a while, shoot them a text or call them. A simple message can turn a person’s whole day around just by knowing that you were thinking of him or her. An act of boldness and friendship expressed even in just a sentence or two might be exactly what someone who is struggling needs. Even in friendships, we can sometimes be gripped by fear that an act of kindness might be perceived as weird or be unwelcomed. However, making an effort to let someone know you are thinking of them is such a quick and easy way to spread encouragement and positivity. Think of how you might feel if someone messaged you just to say that they hoped you had a good day. A small act of kindness can go a long way in brightening your mood and that of others. However you choose to stay connected to family and friends, make sure that you do. Now more than ever it is vital for your emotional and overall health to stay connected to those who matter most.