Staying Connected While Sequestered in Charlotte, NC

If you’re like me, one of the hardest parts about living during the coronavirus pandemic is being isolated from others. Humans are social creatures, and we are not meant to spend so much time alone. Having time to ourselves is important, yes, but if we are secluded for too long, psychological, behavioral, and physical issues may begin to manifest themselves in us. Loneliness can intensify our already heightened stress levels, disrupt our sleep patterns, increase alcohol and drug use, and magnify the chance of developing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. In fact, research has found that lack of social connections can negatively impact the functioning of our cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems, which all play a part in helping us to fight off viruses such as COVID-19 (Uchino, 2006).

Luckily, we live in an era where it is easier than ever before to connect with others using technology. We have phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and gaming consoles that we can use to text, chat, call, video conference, and email friends and family and communicate without ever leaving our homes. The problem with communicating online is that it’s a lot harder to develop meaningful relationships, and it’s these worthwhile connections with others that we need to keep our psyches healthy (Lacey et al., 2014).

So how do we make sure we’re staying meaningfully connected while in isolation?

Here are some tips to virtually maintaining quality relationships with others:

  • Schedule your social hours. Treat online gatherings like you would any other and plan them ahead of time. Routines are especially important now that there is so much uncertainty going on, so try and make connecting with others a regular part of your weekly schedule. Hold virtual happy hour every Wednesday afternoon or brunch every Sunday. If you make connecting with others a consistent part of your day-to-day, you’ll find it much easier to combat the feelings of loneliness and sustain rewarding relationships.
  • Take action. Don’t wait for someone to contact you first. We all have a lot of things going on in our lives right now, and texting your friend is probably not at the forefront of your brain. If you need to, block out a small section of your day to connect with friends or family members and schedule a video chat or call with them. They will appreciate that you took the initiative and will know you care about them.
  • Keep it engaging! A big part of ensuring the connections you have with others are meaningful is to have fun and spend quality time together. There are plenty of online games you can play with each other over video chat and streaming services where you can watch shows and movies together and talk about them. Start a virtual book club with regular meetings, or attend online workout classes with your friends.
  • Be supportive. Possibly the most significant thing you can do to foster meaningful connections is to be there for friends and family when they need you. We are all suffering, and sometimes we can forget that others are in need of support, too. Simply offering a listening ear and speaking words of encouragement and assurance can do wonders for the wellbeing of those close to you.
  • Practice self-care. You can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet. Take some time and de-stress by doing yoga, meditation, practicing breathing techniques, taking a walk, or doing an at-home workout. The most important thing to remember is to find what relaxes you and including that as part of your daily routine.

Sometimes, even with all of the meaningful connections we are working on building, we can still find ourselves feeling isolated and lonely. Here at Thriveworks, all of our services are being provided virtually to help you in this time of need. If you feel that you, a family member, a friend, or a coworker is struggling, please schedule an appointment with us online today.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200307/the-dangers-loneliness

Lacey, R. E., Kumari, M. & Bartley, M. (2014). Social isolation in childhood and adult inflammation: Evidence from the National Child Development Study. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 50, 85 – 94

Makinodan, M., Rosen, K. M., Ito, S. and Corfas, G. (2012). A Critical Period for Social Experience–Dependent Oligodendrocyte Maturation and Myelination. Science, 337(6100), 1357 – 1360

Uchino, B.N. (2006). Social support and health: a review of physiological processes potentially underlying links to disease outcomes. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29(4), 377-387.

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