This week I want to talk about the importance of social support during Covid as a form of self-care. Let’s face it: the past 6 months of social distancing and quarantine measures at home have made it difficult to connect to our usual social support systems. Zoom, Snap Chat, Face Time and What’s App are great, but we can count on technology to fail us at times. Our internet connection may be spotty, our audio may be on the blink, or we might not find a quiet enough space to communicate effectively online. As a result, we may feel frustrated and more alone than ever.
When you think about a typical day in your life pre-Covid, you will likely recognize that many people crossed your path. Either randomly, routinely or intentionally: the neighbor, up the road, walking their dog; the mail carrier; the teacher who monitors the drop-off line for your kids at school. We may not have even interacted with these individuals directly, but they were, nonetheless, part of the landscape of our day. There is something rich about that. Seeing other people in action. Feeling that human connectedness.
We used to plan visits with family and friends. Now what are we doing? Sure, planning to Zoom with others is a way to stay remotely connected, and it is important, but not everyone has a computer. Being in the physical presence of those we love is irreplaceable. There is loss in the fact that we can no longer spontaneously decide to drop in on a friend – or if we do, we need to take safety measures and wear masks, sitting at a distance of 6 feet. How strange is that compared to our lives before Covid?
Okay – enough about how hard it is. Let’s look at some solutions. How do we build emotional connectedness without the physical connectedness we are accustomed to? One strategy is to reflect on the feelings of connection you have felt for someone in the past. You can recall an interesting, compelling conversation you had, a feeling of warmth being in the presence of a person, or a shared experience. Really get specific. Think of an example and connect with that feeling. Create space for the comfort of that feeling to move into your heart. Remember that it is still an active part of you.
Another strategy is to reflect on the people who have loved and supported you in the past. Try and remember a specific situation when you felt distressed and someone helped you. You can silently express gratitude to that person and remember the feelings of security and reassurance they provided you. Instead of focusing on them not being physically present with you at the moment, recall how healing it felt to be supported. By allowing for these warm, positive feelings, you are treating yourself with kindness and compassion. This can actually decrease your feelings of isolation in the present moment.
There are many free online Covid support groups ranging from Anxiety https://www.verywellmind.com/best-online-anxiety-support-groups-4692353, Parentshttps://www.parents.com/news/supports-for-parents-during-covid-19-pandemic/ , Health Care Workers https://www.kolotv.com/content/news/Free-support-groups-for-healthcare-workers-fighting-COVID-19-569645491.html , to Living with Covid https://www.wearebodypolitic.com/covid19
I encourage you to look at these websites and consider joining (or starting) an online group.
Another idea to promote emotional connection during this time is an old fashioned one: write a letter. Express your gratitude to a friend or family member. Remember an experience you shared together. Share your feelings. Put a stamp on it and send it through the mail. Be a Pen Pal. It is fun to get mail and if it is a personal letter, it is a great way to feel connected. Not only will you feel good about reaching out to someone, they will appreciate the time you took to send a note. They can keep the note as a reminder of you and then return the favor by sending one back.
The truth is, whatever the format, we need each other. Consider reaching out to someone today. The very act of helping another person, of reaching out with kindness, helps you feel less isolated and more connected. Remember the support that surrounds you. You are not alone.
Author: Elisabeth Hargrove, MPH, LCSW
Elisabeth Hargrove, MPH, LCSW, is a clinical social worker with over 20 years of experience with a diverse client population in the Triangle area. Elisabeth’s passion is helping clients find their inner strength and resiliency. Her approach is warm, collaborative and non-judgmental. She uses short-term solution focused therapy, motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral techniques to address a range of concerns including anxiety, depression and anger management. Elisabeth has experience working with young children, teens and adults around family issues, behavioral concerns and trauma. She speaks Spanish and has many years of experience working with and advocating for the local Latino community.
Elisabeth believes that life is worth living and that each of us has inherent worth and dignity. She finds it a privilege to help clients uncover their own strength and optimism about life. Life is hard. It can help to have a safe place to bring feelings of stress however they manifest: anxiety, depression, disordered eating, insomnia or chronic health conditions. Elisabeth has experience in Behavioral Health Integration and is keenly aware of the relationship between mental and physical health.
Elisabeth has lived in the Triangle for 30 years, having graduated with a B.A. in English from Davidson College and an M.P.H. and an M.S.W. from UNC Chapel Hill. She loves to spend time with her family and friends, being outside in nature, listening to music and practicing meditation.