Social distancing measures have been an effective tool in slowing the spread of coronavirus, allowing most hospitals to properly manage the number of patients they’re treating.
While distancing focuses on physical proximity, it can also leave us feeling a bit distant mentally from our friends and family. Human interaction is an integral part of joy and well-being, so it’s normal if you’re feeling a loss of community while you do your best to respect social distancing.
Let’s take a quick refresher on what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for social distancing, and then look at ways to still feel connected with your community during this time.
Social Distancing Guidelines
The CDC’s current guidelines on social distancing are as follows:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home. If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.
- Put distance between yourself and other people outside of your home.
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus
- Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people
- Do not gather in groups
- Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings
- Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick
Staying Connected During Social Distancing
One of Aprilaire’s core values is being a good neighbor. To put it simply, we are committed to our community and doing the right thing.
So for us, the question has become, how can we help our families and communities when the socially responsible thing to do is avoid face-to-face interaction?
The most important thing to remember is that social distancing does not mean withdrawing from society. Rather, it presents us with an opportunity to get creative when it comes to meeting our need for social connection.
We can think about maintaining connection in two ways: socially and emotionally.
Social Strategies for Maintaining Connection
These strategies involve creative ways we can safely communicate through external senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste.
- Seeing loved ones in person, even if only through a window or from the car, can be a huge pick-me-up. Drive the grandkids to their grandparents’ and let them chalk their sidewalk or play a game of tic-tac-toe or hangman through the window using dry erase markers.
- Spend quality time with the people you live with; play a board game, learn a new hobby together, tackle a home project, practice the latest TikTok dance.
- Try making more video calls, or sending voice messages as opposed to texting. Hearing other people’s voices is also a powerful tool for feeling connected.
- Use social media to really connect: share pictures, stories, give your family and friends something to smile about.
- Start a virtual book or film club, or share new music. Find ways to culturally connect that don’t include COVID-19 updates.
- Have a virtual family potluck where everyone tries to make the best version of Dad’s famous chili or Grandma’s special chocolate chip cookies. You won’t be able to taste everyone else’s food, but eating the same thing at the same time can create feelings of togetherness.
Emotional Strategies for Maintaining Connection
These strategies will be more internal but just as vital for connecting with your community by creating a sense of purpose and shared meaning.
- Acknowledge that the choices you make as an individual affect others in your community, and therefore affect neighboring communities, cities, states, and so on.
- Recognize you are protecting others by protecting those closest to you.
- Identify friends and loved ones in your life who you are protecting through social distancing. Take it a step further and encourage your neighbors to join you in writing those names on your sidewalk or posting stakes in your lawn to remember why we are making sacrifices.
- Activate the collective resilience of your community virtually to share accurate information, share needs, help each other, and strategize together about homeschooling, working from home, socializing through screens or from a distance as a community.
- Find ways to volunteer if you are able. Many teachers, administrators, and students are transitioning to virtual learning. Local senior centers and home care facilities may have a hard time staffing all their positions with demand for skilled caretakers in hospitals. Call or email to find out if and how you can help virtually.
- Inspire, motivate, and celebrate others for following social distancing strategies.
Psychotherapist, Esther Perel, writes, “We must acknowledge that we are entering a time of prolonged acute stress and uncertainty and that it is a shared reality—with our families, communities, colleagues, and all of humanity. We must be physically apart, but we are emotionally and psychologically in this together.”