So Close and Yet So Far: Staying Connected during Enforced Social Distancing

Posted on: Tue, 04/14/2020 - 12:00

We humans are creatures of connection—we were born to be social. It’s how we have survived and thrived for thousands of years, and it’s captured in the wisdom of an old saying, “It is in the shelter of each other that we grow.” Even so, there are times when we cannot gather, and now enforced social distancing due to COVID-19 keeps us physically distanced from each other. Today’s message is from guest blogger Lynn Davis, FCPS coordinator of Mental Health Services.

We humans are creatures of connection—we were born to be social. It’s how we have survived and thrived for thousands of years, and it’s captured in the wisdom of an old saying, “It is in the shelter of each other that we grow.” Even so, there are times when we cannot gather, and now enforced social distancing due to COVID-19 keeps us physically distanced from each other. The very actions that help our brains and hearts feel better—gathering close, hand shaking, hugging—are all to be avoided with any but those in our immediate household. Each day we’re told to be more cautious than the day before. But caution, which helps us stop and think, doesn’t have to turn into fear, which can lead either to paralysis (ignoring the need to prepare) or extremes (like buying all the toilet paper in the store).

We can use the extra energy that caution gives us to prompt creative ways to meet the “connection challenge.” Do you know a child, colleague, neighbor, friend, or family member who might be struggling? When we are at our most vulnerable, social isolation seems more painful. If you start to feel more anxious, sad, lonely, or angry, reaching out to others is a powerful antidote. Before cell phones, we knocked on the doors of others we thought might need to know they mattered. We checked in, providing or connecting them to resources. Technology makes it possible for us to do that virtually. You might not be able to drop off home-baked cookies, but you can have some delivered. And in these days of texts and memes, doesn’t it feel great to receive a handwritten note? Remember when letter writing used to “be a thing?” Yes, it takes some time and effort to think deeply enough about yourself and the other person to fill up a page. But that’s what makes it special. It’s not a disaster if Netflix goes down or your internet speed gets throttled. It’s an opportunity to put on a pair of gloves and find a piece of paper or get on your computer and write a letter!

Anxiety is often kept at bay by predictability and control. However, right now we are in uncertain times, and our usual routines have been disrupted. Be creative and connect. Try face-to-face apps; set up neighborhood networking posts; help less technologically savvy adults figure out how to join; pick up the phone and call someone who uses a landline or flip phone. Make a list of the people you want to contact daily. Then expand the circle just a little . . .to the older person who looks lonely, or the young mom who looks scared, or the co-worker who isn’t sure how finances are going to work. This crisis will pass. There will be others. That is part of being human, and it always has been. Fear is contagious, but so is care. It truly is in the shelter of each other that we live.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a tip sheet that identifies many common reactions to social distancing and ideas for how to care for mental health and wellbeing. If you feel overwhelmed with emotions like fear, sadness, or anger, tell someone you trust, and reach out to a professional who knows how to help. You are not alone. And if it feels like you are, that’s the time to connect. The Disaster Distress Helpline is available 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s a national hotline that provides crisis counseling for people experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline

https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma14-4894.pdf

http://theconversation.com/social-distancing-can-make-you-lonely-heres-how-to-stay-connected-when-youre-in-lockdown-133693