The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us that human connection can spread illness. But human connection also promotes wellness.
Kasley Killam, How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing
It’s ironic that the best option we have now for dealing with the pandemic is to sharply reduce in-person contact, because social connections are key to our our health and well-being. Isolation and lack of social support are linked to greater vulnerability depression and physical illness, including colds, and heart disease.
Since it looks like this time of isolation at home is going to last for a while, we face a challenge. How do we remain well through a prolonged time of physical distancing? How do we support and strengthen the social connections that we all need for our health and well-being?
Connecting While Avoiding In-Person Contact
Psychologist and researcher Emma Seppala suggests that it’s our inner sense of connection to others, not the number of our interactions with others, that’s most important to our health and well-being.
Here are some ideas for strengthening that sense of connection to our own inner selves, and our connections to others. Each of these are small, simple things to do — every day things that we can do regularly to make a powerful difference.
1) Do a simple metta meditation, which sends compassion and caring to yourself and others. To the script you’ll find at this link, I like to add one more sentence: May I (or you) be loved.
2) Take care of yourself. When we feel good, we’re more likely to connect with and support others.This week I asked the Keys to Change Community members what they’re putting on their Not To Do List in order to take care of themselves. Here are some of their great ideas:
- I will not engage in a knee-jerk speed up.
- Fear is not on my list today.
- I’m not going to watch, read or listen to anything that is upsetting to me.
- Worry is not going to be on my list today! Not that it ever is on my “to-do” list but sometimes it seems to sneak in somehow.
- I’m not going to beat myself up for not getting enough done.
- I’m not going to stop playing Solitaire!
3) Do something kind for someone else. I stopped yesterday for brief, from-a-safe-distance conversation with my neighbor. She’s in the midst of a tough time. I just listened and let her know I was sorry. So often we can’t “fix” the problem, but we can still share caring and connection.
4) Reach out to someone you’re thinking of. Send a text, email, call or even send a postcard.Yesterday I got some Passover greeting texts. One of them lead to an extended exchange with my nephew, who I hadn’t recently been in contact with. It felt all kinds of good. So did my friend’s response when I texted her. We hadn’t been in touch for a while, and agreed we should talk sometime next week.
5) Ask for help. Giving and receiving help builds connection among all involved. Each of my sons helped me out recently. I asked David, who’s a chef, for his ideas on an interesting recipe that would use a head of cauliflower that wasn’t going to hold up much longer. He gave me a great idea! Stephen is an audio engineer. When we talked yesterday, he listened to what I said about some struggles with a current project and offered some great suggestions. I was grateful to receive their help.
We Need Each Other More Than Ever
We’re dealing not only with a novel corona virus, we’re also in the midst of an unprecedented disruption of the world as we knew it just weeks or months ago, depending on where you live. It’s the kind of thing we’d usually handle by seeking the comfort and support of those in our social circles. That comfort is largely unavailable right now.
Our face-to-face contacts are limited to what New Zealanders call “our bubble,” those n our households and selected nearby close family members. But our creativity isn’t limited. We can keep finding ways to maintain the connections so important to our health and well-being.
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Let’s stay connected! Let me know how you’re doing and what your favorite ways are for maintaining connections with yourself and with others.