In all the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are finding ourselves feeling disconnected and anxious. Most of us are practicing social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, and many of us are in or about to receive “shelter in place” orders where we are not able to leave our homes. Others among us are experiencing symptoms, have been exposed to, or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are self-isolating at home, separated from family members and loved ones.
We are far from our typical routine regardless of where we fall on this spectrum. Words and phrases such as “social distancing,” “quarantine,” and “self-isolation,” can evoke a sense of separation and loneliness. Perhaps what we need is a reminder that social distancing is really a physical distancing and there is no need for social isolation during this time.
Connect with Yourself
Right now we are spending more time than usual at home, alone, and without the usual hustle of our overextended days. We may have found that we are uncomfortable with stillness and quiet because we are unacquainted with it as of late. What if we used this time to reconnect with ourselves?
One way of doing that may be through practicing mindfulness. There are many apps that have guided meditations, calming music and sounds, and courses on mindfulness, including InsightTimer, Liberate (targeted specifically for people of color), Calm and Headspace.
Another way may be through movement, whether that is trying out an online yoga, dance, or other movement class, or by moving in a way that feels good.
Finally, we may reconnect with ourselves through creative outlets. That may be visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, crafting), music (playing an instrument, singing alone or with others virtually, composing, listening intently to favorite music), through cooking our favorite foods or trying out a new recipe.
By taking this time to reconnect with ourselves, we may discover something new or reconnect with something in ourselves we had forgotten. Maybe we will find trust in all the ways we already know how to handle or cope with difficult things and learn to apply those skills to this new circumstance. This quiet time of stillness may be a gift in disguise.
Connect with a Trained Mental Health Professional
As mentioned above, we are all experiencing feelings of anxiety, isolation, loneliness, and fear right now. These are big emotions, and the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing to light larger existential anxieties as well, like worries about life and death, financial concerns, and worries about the planet. Connecting virtually with a trained mental health professional may help us voice our inner thoughts and feelings. Trained mental health professionals can help you navigate these anxieties and teach skills for coping in a healthy manner. If you or a loved one is struggling right now and need support, you can be connected to a therapist at Center for Personal Development here.
Connect with Loved Ones
Though we may not be able to physically get together with family and friends right now, there are many ways we can connect from afar. Many of us are spending more time on the phone with our loved ones, checking in on them and sharing our feelings of boredom, anxiety, loneliness and isolation. Other ways we are connecting is via virtual platforms like FaceTime, Google Hangout, Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp. Many of these apps and sites allow multiple people to join a video meeting or call. One way people are using these platforms is to have virtual dance parties where each member joining has headphones of their favorite music, or where one member plays music over a speaker for everyone to hear. There are digital board games and a Netflix Party app so we can watch our favorite shows together virtually. Others are returning to analogue and making postcards or writing letters to loved ones across the city or across the world. We live in an age of so many options to stay connected.
Connect with Community
During this time, we have watched our favorite local businesses, restaurants and stores close their doors to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19. We all know someone who is out of work due to these protective measures. Feeling anxious about the financial impact of this pandemic is widespread right now; we are not alone in our feelings.
One way to fight off these feelings is to take actions that help someone affected by the closures. That may be through purchasing gift cards and services for future use at our favorite local businesses, ordering take out or no-contact delivery from local restaurants or favorite shops.
Another way may be by checking in with loved ones whose income or business is affected by these closures and offering to help, whether that is financially or through donating a skill we have that may be useful.
Those of us who have the means to give may choose to donate to food pantries and homeless shelters, or offer to help friends, family members or neighbors who are ill or immunocompromised by shopping for items they need. If we remind ourselves that we are in this together, sacrificing for the sake of our community’s health may leave us feeling less alone.
Organize with Others
Finally, just as we are not alone in our anxiety, we are not alone in our disappointment, anger, and outrage at how the COVID-19 pandemic has been handled thus far. If you find yourself feeling any of these emotions, remind yourself that you are not alone. There are many people making decisions right now that will impact us in the short and long term: school boards, city councils, mayors, state representatives, governors, federal representatives and administrators.
Reaching out to your representatives can make a difference. This link allows you to find every representative at the local, county, state and federal level: www.usa.gov/elected-officials. We can reach out to our representatives by calling or writing to them. We can connect with others who share our values through virtual platforms and social media, including those who are organizing campaigns for change.
During these uncertain times, may we remind ourselves that social distancing does not have to mean isolation. Through connection and community, we can support each other, and that can be life-saving.