We’re all dealing with a new (and hopefully temporary) reality that feels ripped from the screenplay of a 2011 movie where only Matt Damon is immune. Our new reality, brought to us by COVID-19, or Coronavirus as it’s also known, means we actually can’t even go to see a movie now, let alone eat in a restaurant or even hang out with our near and dear in the ways we “normally” do.
There is no “normal” for the moment, and when we’re all physically distancing ourselves from each other--whether working from home, self-isolating, being quarantined or just maintaining an unnatural amount of physical space between our bodies to create a reduced risk--when we do these things we know are supposed to keep us safe, we’re often left feeling lonely, anxious, and even ostracized. Here are seven tips to help keep you connected (and even creative!) while you practice social distancing like a solid citizen.
1. Replace IRL Events with Virtual Versions
Sure you’d rather meet up with your friends in person. But just getting together online and doing things “together-apart” can be really uplifting. Start a new group chat with memes about how you’re feeling--or share creative ways for how to hide from your children when they drive you bananas while not going to school. Set a calendar invite for a Virtual Cocktail Party via Zoom or Google Hangouts. Start a home cooking challenge circle and share photos of the dishes you create while nesting at home. Find ways to see the faces of people you love.
2. Postpone, But Don’t Ignore Important Events
Yes, you may need to reschedule that Bottomless Birthday Brunch you had planned. You may even need to reschedule your wedding. That is not what anyone wants for you, but if it happens, make sure to mark the occasion anyway, in whatever way works for you. This couple dialed into their own wedding celebration... from quarantine!
3. Lower Your Expectations
I was recently in a grocery store in a suburban area, not long after the news of COVID-19 started to become more serious. People naturally raced to the supermarket and stocks of certain items were low. But even if there were only seven types of potatoes instead of 14 for the moment, it was still okay, despite what you would’ve thought if you’d heard some of the shoppers complaining about not finding everything they wanted.
Adjusting our expectations--and even our sense of entitlement--can be as easy as taking a moment, breathing in deeply, and being grateful for what we do have. For what’s good about this moment. Focusing on, and actively marking, what’s fine right now can be calming and affirming. Thank the cashier and the stock person in your grocery store. They are under more stress than ever and are doing their best to make sure we have what we need. If every single thing you’d normally put in your cart isn’t available right this minute, be flexible, and be thankful.
4. Catch Up with Coworkers
Studies have shown that people who work from home for long periods can feel isolated, and it can be difficult to maintain a sense of being a part of a team. If you’re feeling lonely or cut off from your office energy, set up a Coffee Break Call on FaceTime with one or two of your favorite work friends. Make a cup of coffee, and make a promise to NOT talk about work for at least five minutes. Other ideas include posting “office memories” stories on Insta to call out your favorite moments.
5. Nurture Your Senses
At a time when things feel “off” and we may be anxious, it can be helpful to ground ourselves in things that appeal directly to our physical experience. Making small changes to your environment to activate your senses is a great hack to change the way you feel in this moment. Light a scented candle, find a relaxing playlist--or a New Orleans Bounce playlist. Do a few yoga stretches or jumping jacks. Even applying lotion or making a tea with fresh herbs and using it to steam your face can have a very calming effect. Also, this Evian facial water and this face ice roller that I keep in my freezer.
6. Connect with Yourself
When we’re told we can’t do the things we normally do freely, that we can’t be with our dearest friends or go to the places we love, we can easily feel cut off and disconnected. But we can also see this challenge as an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves. Consider putting down your phone for a few minutes, taking a break from the madness of a chaotic news cycle, and just sitting quietly. Taking a few deep breaths can help, but so can reading a beloved book, journaling, listening to this podcast about Bucket Lists, and planning for goals you want to accomplish.
Sometimes when our schedules are thrown out of whack, we can steal some moments just for us, to reflect, to dream big, to enjoy, or even simply to live this moment with appreciation and wonder. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Schitt’s Creek.
7. A Smile Is a Gift
And one final tip--when you do encounter others, while you should of course do your best to be safe, don’t hesitate to smile, nod, and acknowledge your fellow humans, even if they are strangers, and even if you're wearing a mask. I noted the other day that you can still detect a smile from a mask-wearing human. The smallest sign of connection in a time of such global separation can be contagious in a good way. It can be a lifeline that will help get us through as we navigate these uncharted waters.
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