By: Puru Thapa, M.D., Matt Boone, LCSW and Vicki Flynn Walden, M.D.
Social distancing is the one strategy that we know works in reducing the spread of the coronavirus and thus prevent COVID-19. Unfortunately, while practicing social distancing, it is easy to feel socially isolated. Feeling isolated and alone can precipitate a variety of emotional and mental health problems. However, you can take steps to minimize social isolation and view this as an opportunity to enrich your social connections. Here are some tips to avoid social isolation whether you are living alone or with others.
Increase the quantity of your social interactions. Connect with your loved ones, friends, and even acquaintances multiple times a day via telephone, FaceTime, Skype, texts, email and/or other media. Schedule a weekly Google Hangout or Zoom call for your family, friends, or work colleagues where you can visit with multiple friends at once! This is good opportunity to reach out and check on friends and acquaintances that you may normally not be in touch with to foster deeper relationships.
Increase the quality of your social interactions. Nurture and enrich the quality of your relationships with your loved ones. Engage in deeper and longer conversations, practice truly listening, and show your love and compassion. This can be done in person with those living with you or remotely with those who are not.
Join Social Media Groups. Join and participate in carefully selected groups through social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and so on. These groups can be made up of your family and relatives, close friends and acquaintances, peers, and/or anonymous individuals sharing similar interests. Be sure that the groups you join provide a sense of community and support. Avoid groups that seem to provoke excessive fear and negativity – there’s plenty of that to go around already.
Join Online Hobby/Interest Groups. There are so many new and unique opportunities to get engaged with your hobbies online! Join online groups that share similar hobbies and interests as yours. For example, if you are a chess player, you can connect and play online chess with other chess players. There are also many popular online video games that encourage you to play and connect simultaneously. There are also several free instructor-led exercise programs where you learn physical activities you can do from within your home – and how to substitute canned vegetables for hand weights! Similarly, our very own Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is offering daily Bedtime with Bach where they play short pieces for you to enjoy from the comfort of your home (via Facebook).
This time also gives you the opportunity to truly reflect on what your values and priorities are, what you are grateful for, and how you can use these to enrich your life and your social connections.