Any Redeeming Value to Social Distancing?
It’s eminently clear that COVID-19 social distancing is taking its toll on many people. The loneliness for many borders on the unbearable. Given that loneliness increases the risk of premature death by more than 25 percent, this looming mental health crisis has the potential to bring even more severe consequences if it goes unchecked. So the question we must ask is, “Does social distancing have us doomed?”
The answer is that it probably depends. In other words, if left to its own devices, social distancing, while a necessity from a health perspective, can cause considerable suffering and damage. But what some of us don’t realize is that social distancing does not necessarily need to drive us apart.
Social distancing provides us all the more reason and opportunity to relate to one another in this ever-changing and fast-paced social world. And since it looks like we’ll be dealing with this pandemic for a while, here are some helpful tips backed by experts and psychologists to help us transform social distancing into a positive force.
Select Your Social Interactions Carefully
You may need to be selective as to whom you will socialize with during this time. Some want to talk about COVID-19 social distancing and the virus itself nonstop, and others will do anything possible to avoid such a discussion. You need to determine where you find yourself on this spectrum. Being selective and proactive regarding your socialization may be the difference between strengthening a bond and inviting more stress into your life.
Protect those Precious Moments of Solitude
What many people who are suffering from loneliness don’t realize is the importance of connecting to themselves. This connection can take any number of forms such as meditation, prayer, mindfulness, or anything else that promotes your ability to present in the moment. What’s important is to allow yourself to get to know yourself better.
The opportunity to reframe in difficult times allows a person to build a reservoir of positive energy as well. As a person becomes more grounded and centered inside of oneself, there is a shift in emphasis from what is going on all around (over which none of us have any control) to one’s inner world where we do have control.
Make that Connection a Direct One
Contrary to what it seems, being home with family doesn’t necessarily guarantee that we will spend more time with loved ones. Schedules for those who are working from home are often intense and coupled with taking care of the children’s needs, and homeschooling can often preclude the opportunity to spend quality time together.
It is essential to carve out time daily to connect with family in a quality way. And if family isn’t together with you in the house, then extend yourself to family and friends outside the home. Even if you are exhausted and don’t have the bandwidth to make the connection, it is essential to massage that fundamental need of being connected.
This connection must be intentional and mindful. These interactions will maintain the vitality in those relationships and renew your appreciation of their value.
When connecting with those outside of your home, use video conferencing whenever possible. Whether it is Zoom, FaceTime or Skype, it is vital to establish the connection in real-time. Now, more than ever, you need to avoid relying on distant internet connection communications or email.
Video conferencing allows you to give your full attention by connecting in the here and now. Seeing each other in real-time will also facilitate a more genuine sharing of feelings, which promotes bonding. And it also allows for eye contact, which will facilitate a deeper connection. Deepening interpersonal connections is so crucial at this time.
Aside from the intrinsic value of connecting with others is the practical benefit of the cross-pollination of ideas. The entirety of humanity is facing this unique problem together. As such, we all have something to gain from sharing ideas and solutions. Our relationships can become an excellent problem-solving platform.
By sharing our trials, tribulations, and ideas with others, we are opening ourselves to new perspectives and insights. In this way, we can protect our perspective from spiraling into catastrophizing, and we may get some new ways to address our dilemmas. This less apparent benefit of friendship, actively learning from each other, could be vital in solving our problems and strengthening our bonds with others simultaneously.
A Silver Lining of Opportunity?
Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist who studies the effects of our physical environments on our moods and behaviors (such as being cooped up at home because of coronavirus), observed the following. “I believe this is the start of a massive cultural change toward how we connect. None of us invited COVID-19 social distancing and all that it entails. But now that it’s here let’s take the lemons and make some delicious lemonade!”
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