The world may be participating in "Social Distancing" right now, but that doesn't mean we can't be social. Humans are social creatures and crave connection. A great way to keep in touch with friends and loved ones whom we can't spend time with physically is through one of the many (mostly free!) video chat apps out there. Most people have one built right into their smartphone - for those with iPhones the FaceTime app works great and can accommodate up to 32 participants. If you're an Andriod user, WhatsApp, Google Duo, Facebook Messenger or Skype will give you the same "FaceTime"-like experience. If you want to connect with a larger group such as your book club, gym or church community, apps like Zoom (free for up to 40 people at a time) or Google Hangouts (free for up to 25 people at a time) are great options. They're very easy to use - set up takes only seconds, and even people without a camera can join in via voice. Zoom and Google Hangouts also have a presentation option so you can present your screen to others. The old fashioned phone works too, but video-chatting is even better as it most replicates direct contact because you can actually see each other’s expressions and emotions. Something as simple as a smile can really brighten someone’s day!
According to a recent NYTimes article: “loneliness is distinct from solitude: Loneliness is the subjective feeling that you’re lacking the social connections you need — the feeling of closeness, trust and affection of genuine friends, loved ones and community.” By maintaining our social connections, we can help our bodies and minds counter the negative toll that stress and anxiety can take on us. Reducing stress is especially important during such a challenging time in our lives, when many are facing financial hardships due to job loss, childcare challenges due to school closings, not to mention the emotional and mental toll of a worldwide pandemic happening around you.
We are wired for human connection - a deep need that most of us crave in one way or another. Now more than ever, it is important to take steps to counter the loneliness that comes along with staying home and away from our normal routine, or else the lack of human connection could end up wreaking havoc on our mental and physical health.
So schedule a happy hour with your work friends, continue that weekly lunch appointment with your Grandma, have coffee with Mom & Dad, or game night with friends, just be sure to do it virtually for now, until the world is healthy again! Because this, too, shall pass.