With all of us staying home more and severely reducing our social interactions you may have found that this crisis has presented unique social challenges. Some of us are dealing with the stress of being separated from others, while others are learning how to cope with managing more time with partners or family; and many are dealing with both of those struggles. Maintaining social connections and having regular contact with people helps lower stress and supports better health. Here are some tips for remaining social and supporting healthy relationships in the time of social distancing.
Whether living alone or with other people, it is difficult coping with the separation from loved ones; it can feel isolating. Finding new ways of staying in contact with the significant people in our lives is vital.
- Set up virtual gatherings
Send your friends or family an invitation to talk via a video communications site. Prepare some appetizers, have a fancy cocktail or mocktail, and chat with loved ones. Play board games, watch movies together or have a dance party. Be creative with your time together, we all need to have a little fun.
- Check in on people in hospitals, living alone, or in nursing homes frequently
Humans are not meant to spend long periods of time separated from one another, so this crisis is particularly difficult for those of us living alone. Set up regular times to talk to the isolated people in your life. Depending on what the person needs plan daily, bi-weekly, or weekly texts or phone calls.
- Play multiplayer online games
There are so many different online games that allow you to interact with other people. From playing against friends to visiting them in their online world, you can connect with people in a variety of ways. Many games offer the ability to communicate with others; either by talking through headsets/ear buds or texting through in game messaging or feeds.
- Keep up with regular social engagements as much as you can
If you go to your parent’s house every Friday for dinner, plan on video chatting during meal time. Have your next book club meeting on a video communications site, or video chat with your workout buddy for a live stream fitness class. Many of us maintain our relationships through scheduled time together, and this is no time to give that up. Seeing or speaking to people at times we usually would, gives a sense of normality.
Managing Relationships in Lockdown
Spending all of our time with our significant other, children, parents or roommates can create its own challenges. While you may feel fortunate to have people to spend time with, it can be trying being together most of the time. It is necessary to work as a team to manage these struggles.
- Form a strategy
Sit down as a family, couple, or group to discuss upcoming tasks and responsibilities; develop a plan for how you are going to handle them together. Have a meeting at the beginning of the week to create a schedule for getting everything done.
- Plan time apart
We are not used to spending all our time with one or a few people. It is important to carve out time and spaces where we are away from each other. If you are working from home try to make a separate space for work. Try to limit contact during the day, it may allow for better conversation later on. Set up scheduled quiet times.
- Make time for each other
After spending so much time together we may get lazy in maintaining the relationships with those around us. Intentionally plan for time together as a couple or family. Have a date night; dress up, pretend you are going out for the night, get take out, rent a movie, or go on a virtual tour of a museum. Arrange for family time; have a game night, do a craft project or make a blanket fort in the living room.
- Practice gratitude
As the weeks and months go on it is important to remember none of us are perfect, and stress does not always bring out the best in us. We are all doing the best we can. Make sure you are doing your part and notice how your partner or children are helping out too. Remember to say thank you. Sharing the things you are grateful for and showing your appreciation regularly, promotes a better state of mind and connection with others.
It can be difficult coping when we are facing so much change and uncertainty. At times you may feel overwhelmed by a variety of emotions. Reaching out during tough times can help relieve some of the stress and lessen the burden.
- Talk it out
Call a friend and let them know what you are thinking and feeling. Give them an opportunity to talk about their experiences and listen attentively. Genuinely connecting and being vulnerable with someone provides a deeper connection. Sharing with someone you trust lessens the load.
- Ask for help
It can be hard to admit you cannot do it alone. Whether you need practical help or emotional help, you may feel weak or inept for having to rely on others. Try to remember it takes strength to reach out, and people like giving to others. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but ask for help the next time you feel overwhelmed with a task or problem. Start with small requests if you’re still getting used to accepting help.
- Utilize supports appropriately
Be mindful of how the people around you can help. Support falls into three types: emotional (listening, talking, being with), informative (relaying information), and instrumental (practical help, like changing a tire). Pay attention to where your loved ones strengths lie and match them with your needs.
- Spread the love
It is best to have a small group of people you can turn to when you are struggling. While loved ones are usually ready and willing to help, you may wear them out if you only have one or two people to turn to. Having multiple supports can prevent burning out one person. Supports can be friends, family, mentors, sponsors, or therapists; anyone that is important to you. If you don’t have many or any social supports here is a list of resources in the area:
1. ECHN’s Behavioral Health Services
3. The suicide prevention hotline 1.800.273.8255 or The suicide text line 741741
4. REACH (Resources Encouragement And Caring Hearts) Warm Line (telephone support services) 1.866.927.6225 (7 days a week 6pm-10pm)
5. Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery 1.866.205.9770 and 860.244.CCAR
6. Alcoholic Anonymous hotline 1.866.783.7712
7. Veterans Crisis line 1.800.273.8255
8. Interval House domestic violence hotline 888.774.2900