How to keep in touch during COVID-19
Why we feel lonely?
Most of us sometimes feel lonely or disconnected, even if we are not alone. This is not limited to You or me, but it is becoming more and more regular. Not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but also due to our new “self-centric” lifestyle.
Everybody is born with a strong need for social interactions and connections.
We desire it so much, that we start to feel a so-called social pain when we lack them.
Unfortunately, this can lead to bad mood, which ultimately drives you to reject more and more interactions with others.
This can create a self-sustaining cycle that leads to depression.
If you are interested in how this works, we highly recommend you to watch Kurzgesagt’s great animation about loneliness:
The current pandemic forces us to stay home and keep social distancing. These are necessary to control the spread of the virus, but it definitely has a negative impact on our mental health and social interactions. We keep distance from our colleagues, friends, and even from our family members. We don’t go out, don’t have a drink or dinner together to avoid contact. Some of us can handle this situation better, some just don’t.
How to avoid loneliness?
Feeling lonely nowadays may be commonly accepted as we sacrifice our physical social interactions in favor of the measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, we don’t have to sacrifice our mental health, positiveness, nor our virtual interactions with colleagues, friends, or family.
Fortunately, we have the tools to talk, play or interact with each other virtually. Having the technology is barely enough if we don’t seize the opportunity. Our lives changed a lot, so we need to adapt to it. Ignoring our social activities, friends, and family, and replacing them with meaningless scrolling through news and social media, or watching more movies or series will make us sick.
We need to restore our connections, talk to each other, laugh, spend quality time together. Thankfully, we are not limited to physical contact, we can call anybody, we can even see each other with a video call. It’s not the same as in-person, but it definitely improves your mood and makes your day better.
Why, and how to start a conversation?
At this point, you know why you really need to talk with your colleagues, friends, and family. It may not be so obvious, why you should start the conversation.
Your colleague or friend may also feel lonely, depressed, or maybe just having a bad day. You can write a kind message, or you may call somebody to cheer them up, and so yourself.
Saying Hello is a good start, but try to avoid small talk and try to show you are truly interested. It is easy and convenient to settle with a What’s up? Nothing special. or How’re you? Fine, thanks. Especially when both of you stay home most of the time, so you have no new stories or experiences to share.
There is always something to share or ask about. You can talk about your feelings, how you experience this new situation, what do you do otherwise than you would normally. Talk about things you have discovered recently or about changes in your life. Share your experiences, things, and practices that made your days better.
If you want to start with a less personal topic, you can try to discuss any kind of news you are interested in. It can be anything: politics, science, tabloid, gossip, economics, professional, or products.
Getting into a long discussion is a great way of getting the right amount of social interactions, but sometimes it may not be possible, or you may not be in the mood for it. In these cases, you can try to do something relaxing or entertaining. You can just ask somebody to play an online game with you or watch a movie together with a voice call.
Text or call?
Writing text messages is great when you want to say something, but they are really poor for a meaningful conversation. We need the most in-person experience to get the feeling of real social interaction.
A real smile or a laugh will make you much happier than a LOL, HaHa, or a 😂 emoji in a text bubble on your phone. Usually when we send one of these we don’t even smile as we are not in a social situation when smiling and laughing makes sense.
Nonverbal expressions - like mimics, eye contact, body language, tone, pitch, and intonation - can not be sent through text. Even if we try to represent them using emojis, stickers, or gifs, we won’t perceive them like real emotions. They won’t affect our feelings in the same way or intensity.
Usually, we love texting because it doesn’t need active attention. We can read our messages anytime, we can also reply to them hours or days later. These may sound convenient, but it is just the opposite of what we need a conversation to be. Active attention - that helps you open up, talk about emotions and thoughts - is missing from texting.
The act that you dedicate your time and attention to somebody by calling them may make them happy. For the elderly, it may be even frustrating to read or even find your message in an app.
To sum it up:
Make somebody feel better
Hopefully, you don’t feel lonely or depressed, but a colleague, a friend, or a family member may feel like that. You or they may not even notice it, but it happens really often, especially in the current circumstances of the pandemic.
Being lonely doesn’t mean being alone. Maybe your housemate or partner feels lonely, despite that you live together. Being nice with, smiling at, giving support to, or paying attention to someone takes just a few moments, but it may change how you feel that whole day.
Interacting with our beloved ones makes us happy, especially when we feel they appreciate our company. This kind of social behavior is so strong, that wasting this opportunity is like shooting yourself in the foot.
This is a hard topic, so I tried to boil it down to 4 simple points:
- We all crave social interactions. The lack of them makes us feel lonely.
- You need to take action to interact with people. Don’t wait for others.
- When meeting in person is not possible, make a video call instead of texting.
- Interact with others to help them feel better. It’ll also make you feel better.
Now, that you know this, you are ready to take action. Let me suggest you a simple, first step:
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