Isolation is one of the big changes almost everyone is experiencing in their lives right now. In times of stress, being disconnected from others can be particularly hard.
COVID-19 is likely to keep influencing our lives in the coming months, so it’s important to make sure we’re looking after ourselves. Humans are social beings. Evidence shows that loneliness and isolation aren’t good for our health. Even if we’re naturally introverted, connecting with others is an important part of looking after our wellbeing.
What is social connectedness?
‘Social distancing’ isn’t the right term for what we need right now. We need ‘physical distancing’ while staying socially connected. But who should we stay connected with and how?
Social connectedness is about our relationships and sense of belonging in the communities that matter to us. There’s different layers to this, from our closest relationships like family and close friends, to colleagues, acquaintances, or even strangers.
It’s not just family and close friends that are important. These other layers have a role as well. Normally, the connections we have with casual friends, work acquaintances, and strangers make us feel like we’re part of a wider community. They bring new ideas, diverse opinions, and are often where we find new relationships.
Maintaining social connection through COVID-19 isolation
Below are some strategies you might like to try, but we know isolation and relationships can come with a range of challenges that we can’t delve into here.
Consider the quality of relationships
There’s a difference between quality and closeness. Some relationships are positive and high quality, and some are more challenging, even among our closest relationships. Our close relationships are usually the most important to us, so looking after them is almost definitely worth it. If they’re high quality connections, they’re probably also the easiest to maintain because you have so much in common.
There’s no simple tip for managing hard relationships. However, reflecting and being aware of the quality of all of your connections can help. If you’re putting a huge amount of effort into ones that aren’t helpful for you, maybe even at the expense of good quality relationships, it might be worth considering a change. This kind of situation can be hard, so you might like to get in touch with us at Redkite for support.
It might not always be the same as seeing each other in person, but there’s lots of ways to connect using technology. There’s video calls, texting, phone calls, social media, email, online gaming or even letter writing. Groups of people can use many of these options to connect with each other too.
Have a think about which option works best for each relationship. Some relationships need more time than others, so you might phone or video call each other. If you have trouble finding a time that suits you both, an email or letter might work better. Others relationships work perfectly well in snippets, like occasional texts.
Having a focus
Lots of relationships work best with a focus. It could be a shared interest like gaming or reading, or something as simple as sharing a cuppa together. Groups often connect over a shared interest, like sharing tips on homeschooling, or over a (virtual) brunch or happy hour.
If you notice an important relationship slipping, reach out. Let them know you want to stay connected and find ways that work for both of you. Taking time to nurture your relationship will likely strengthen it.
Listen to yourself and have realistic expectations
Care for yourself by having realistic expectations of what you can do. If you can’t keep up with your connections like you normally would, don’t be hard on yourself. Think about which relationships are important for you and focus on connecting with those people in manageable ways.
Remember, families who have lived with cancer have skills to manage isolation that others don’t. You’ve almost certainly had to manage physical distancing before. You probably have strategies and hard-earned wisdom that’ll be invaluable to those around you.
If you’d like to talk through your own unique circumstances with a Redkite Social Worker, get in touch with us on 1800 REDKITE (1800 733 548) or at firstname.lastname@example.org