The Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) that is currently affecting the world has dramatically changed the way we interact with other people. Suddenly, that friendly smile or wave we usually receive from the neighbor who lives down the street becomes a curt nod as we attempt to pass on the sidewalk, or the stranger in the grocery store standing too close to us in line becomes an object of contempt.
We are afraid to shake hands when meeting someone new or hug that friend we haven’t seen in a while because we don’t know what kind of germs they are carrying. We want to pinch the cheeks of that adorable baby slung over her tired mother’s hip because, let’s face it, babies are just so darn cute, but we know we shouldn’t get too close because they are germ factories.
Everything we touch with our bare hands feels dirty and we can’t seem to wash them fast enough. Another person’s cough or sneeze sends us running for cover and we wish we had been able to find a facemask at the store because the very air we breathe might be contaminated.
At any other time in my life, I might have laughed at the “germ mongers” for their obsessive compulsive attitudes about germs, but now those germs have become a very real issue for many of us and are the reason we are confined to our homes while the pandemic makes its rounds.
Some of us choose to stay at home to minimize the chance of spread, while others who have already been compromised are required to undergo mandatory quarantine. Others have no choice but to stay home because schools and daycares are closed and they have no one else to look after the kids, or workplaces have closed to comply with government regulations.
When uncertain and difficult times charge the air like static electricity, we are susceptible to shocks of fear and doubt. These are times when we need to be around people the most so we can confide in a friend or loved one, a family physician, counselor, or spiritual advisor and receive the advice we need to get us through the rough stuff.
So what are we supposed to do when all our appointments have been cancelled and we can no longer go out for coffee with a friend? How do we stave off loneliness, anxiety and depression? Simply put, how do we keep our sanity in a world that seems to be going berserk?
First of all, let’s clarify the meaning of the term “social distancing.” This term seems to be inaptly named because what is actually being recommended to minimize the chance of spreading the coronavirus is “physical distancing.” We are to maintain a safe physical distance from other people, not necessarily a social distance.
*Note: For more details about the current safe practices that help to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, visit the following websites: your local government website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the World Health Organization.
Social distancing does not mean that we are being asked to isolate ourselves entirely from other people. We can still be social while complying with “physical” social distancing regulations. And since the Internet allows us to connect to practically anyone anywhere in the world, we are never truly alone.
This is great news! It means that you don’t have to go through this alone! You are “surrounded” by physically-distant people who are experiencing the same anxiety, depression, fear, loneliness, and uncertainty.
So, to help you stay connected with other people during these harrowing times, I have compiled a list of 25 ways you can still be social while practicing social distancing.
25 Ways to Stay Social While Social Distancing
1. Attend a virtual church service. Many churches have switched their weekly in-person church gatherings to Website Live Stream, Facebook Live, Podcast or Conference Call.
Here are a few of the virtual church services hosted in Winnipeg, Manitoba that you can watch:
3. Call a friend or family member on the phone instead of texting or emailing.
4. Set up a group chat with your family or friends through Facebook Messenger and share conversations, selfies, or funny memes with each other.
5. Join a local Facebook group that shares similar interests with you and connect with new people.
6. Engage with people you follow on social media, including small businesses and artists, by commenting on their posts and/or direct messaging them with encouraging words. After all, these are people on the other end and they would be happy to hear words of encouragement, too!
7. Schedule a phone date with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
9. Start a GoFundMe campaign for a charity or cause you’re most passionate about and invite your friends to help you raise funds and awareness for this great cause.
11. Participate in a virtual game night with friends and/or family and play your favourite virtual board games together on websites such as Board Game Arena.
14. Have a virtual movie date night with your friends. Arrange to stream and watch the same movie at the same time via Amazon Prime, Disney+, Netflix, and text your comments/reactions to each other during the movie.
15. Create or join a Window Art Facebook group in your neighbourhood and organize or participate in group window art activities. Some Facebook groups in Winnipeg, Manitoba are located here:
16. Turn off your phones and computers and spend quality time with the family members you live with.
17. Have a romantic candlelit dinner with your spouse.
18. Write and mail a good old-fashioned letter to a family member, a friend, or an elderly relative living in a nursing home.
19. Sit outside an elderly relative’s window and talk through the open window while maintaining a safe distance or on the phone so you can have a “face-to-face” conversation.
Disclaimer: If the relative you wish to visit lives in a nursing home, make sure you obtain permission from the nursing home staff beforehand in case their regulations do not allow these types of visits.
20. Go for a walk and greet or wave to the neighbours you meet while maintaining a safe distance.
21. Order coffee from your favourite drive-thru coffee shop and sincerely thank the barista who serves your coffee.
22. Have a picnic in your car! Arrange to meet up with a friend for lunch or coffee in separate vehicles, park in a vacant parking lot and talk through the open windows of your vehicles.
23. Sing or play an instrument outside on your deck or balcony for your neighbours and/or participate in a sing-a-long in your neighbourhood.
24. Be kind to people in the grocery store and pharmacy, especially the hard-working employees who are putting themselves at risk to offer a service to you.
25. Your mental health is also important, so if you need to talk to someone about your anxiety, fear, or depression, many doctors’ offices and counselors are making their services available online. Contact a doctor or counselor in your area to book an appointment.
There are many other ways you can maintain a social life while remaining physically distant from other people. Be creative, but make sure you practice safe distancing and keep yourself and the people around you safe.
Don’t forget to be kind and have fun!
You are not alone.
You. Are. Loved.
I hope you find love, hope and peace in these words.