Schools are closing, businesses are on hold, stores are empty, and we’re encouraged to practice “social distancing.” It feels like everything is changing so quickly (sometimes even hour by hour).
While social distancing may be good advice for maintaining our physical health and the health of our loved ones, it can make our soul ache. Feeling disconnected from those we care about counters our core yearnings—to be seen, to be connected, to love and to be loved.
So how do we cope? Better yet, how do we find ways to thrive during these troubling times? How can we stay connected when we’re practicing social distancing?
When we can’t reach out with our arms, we can still reach out with our hearts. Sometimes our presence and caring can actually be more nurturing and intimate than a physical hug.
Being sensitive and empathic starts with being in touch with our own hearts—when we’re aware of our own feelings, we can more easily connect with what others are feeling. As we let our hearts be softened, vulnerable, and open, we can then care more deeply about others. We can connect more deeply, reaching out heart to heart, whether by phone, video, or social media.
When we don’t stop in the corner coffee shop because it’s closed or we only pick up food curbside, we miss out on those little interactions throughout the day that help us engage and connect.
Those loose social ties may seem minor and even insignificant, but studies show they’re critical to maintaining our mood and positive outlook. In one study, commuters who talked to just one person on the train reported a boost from the interaction that lasted throughout the rest of their day. Despite predicting that a conversation with a stranger wouldn’t make a difference (or would have a negative effect on their mood), it actually had a profoundly positive outcome.
Now, in the days of social distancing, we miss out on these types of moments and opportunities, so it becomes even more important that we really reach out with our hearts.
How do we connect with others when we’re social distancing? We can still find many ways to touch those around us. It might mean setting up Facetime, Zoom, or video conferencing with your coworkers so you can SEE and HEAR them. Ask questions of each other, bring in talking points, and foster deeper, more meaningful engagement.
Send photos back and forth—share what you’re doing. Show your coworkers your new “home office” so you can picture each other in your environments, and get to know each other better.
You can still go out to dinner with your friends—virtually! Arrange a time to sit down for dinner and enjoy your meal by video. Have a deeper discussion, share your feelings, solve problems together, and toast each other.
On social media, share inspirational posts, music, and stories that touch your heart. Amidst all the news coverage, we need our spirits uplifted and to remind—and be reminded—of what really matters.
Maintaining our strong social connections may also mean reaching out more often to friends and family, not only on social media but also by calling and chatting. Check-in with those who are worried. People are facing tons of cancellations right now, and it’s affecting many livelihoods. It’s a frightening time and people cope with it in different ways. Open your heart to those people. Keep up your relationship and support them.
We may have social distance between us, but we can still find plenty of ways to foster human contact. While one village in Italy was on quarantine, neighbors began serenading each other from their balconies. Soon, many people were bringing out their own instruments and clapping along to the songs. In Spain, a fitness instructor offered lessons from his rooftop as people followed along on their porches.
It’s these beautiful moments where we see the best of humanity. We can share our gifts and our hearts, even from afar. You can take extra time throughout your day to cultivate your connections as much and as often as possible. Engage with your heart.
Despite feelings of panic and fear, this is a time we can come together—even from a distance—with love, support, and understanding.
Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.