While these unusual times require physically distancing ourselves from others, it does not necessarily mean we should keep ourselves "socially" distanced from our connections. Social connection and our networks, whether it is our family, friends, and colleagues, have a beneficial effect on our psychological well-being, stress reactions and self-esteem (1),
Our mental health suffers when we are out of connection with others. Supportive social ties, or simply having someone with whom to confide in and understands our problems in times of crisis has a direct impact on our mental health and happiness.
Therefore, even if we are in quarantine or self-isolation, it is vital not only that we stay connected with others but that we feel connected to others, as it is crucial to our mental health. Here are some tips on feeling connected during these times of physically distancing (2):
Practice “passive” socializing: be the person who is not only available to listen but actively listens to others, as real social support through connection can enhance not only communication skills but also reduce social isolation. It can be as simple as telling your friend that you will find a quiet place to talk or even stopping the urge to be distracted from the conversation.
Make the most of technology: not only is your phone an important and enduring tool for social connection but using the camera with apps like Facetime, Zoom and Skype enhances the experience of connection when you are able to visualize the person on the other end. Be creative and plan virtual social activities like lunch dates, play dates, and even book clubs with your connections. While technology is not always perfect (anticipate lagging and lost connection!), it is how we react when we muddle through these imperfections that make the connection real and personal.
Make it a part of your routine: setting a time (or several) aside over the course of your day to socially connect with others is a healthy habit to start. In fact, do be spontaneous with reaching out to others as well. Send your sibling a text or call your friend out of the blue to reconnect. Of course, do practice social distancing protocols if you plan to meet up.
Reach out to mental health supports: for those who are experiencing heightened anxiety and depression in these stressful times, reach out to mental health support programs such as EFAP/EAP. Most, if not all of our counsellors, are providing virtual and telephone counselling at this time.
You are not alone: remember this when you are interacting with your connections. Share your feelings openly and allow deeper conversations to develop. Even if we are required to extend the distance between ourselves and others, it does not mean that we must maintain an emotional distance that will prevent us from feeling truly connected with others during these times.
(1) Harvard Health Publishing. 2010. “The health benefits of strong relationships.” Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch. Retrieved November 6, 2020,