Ideas for Social Connection during Physical Distancing


It’s tough to feel connected when being physically distanced from people you adore. Like Leia and Luke, you can stay connected even from afar. Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation or disconnection. Here are some suggestions to foster, maintain, or even enhance social intimacy in these difficult times:

  • Use physical closeness to connect with people who are nearby.  Speak to your neighbors from over a fence or across balconies. Talk to people you meet outside…at a distance.
  • Get some fresh air and invite the people you live with to join you.
  • Reach out and let people know you’re thinking about them and that you care – especially if there is someone you know who may be particularly vulnerable to social isolation. Frequency is more important than duration. Don’t worry about being boring. Social connection is valuable even when there isn’t much to say.
  • Send voice memos to loved ones. You may feel a greater sense of connection than writing a text provides.
  • Create group text threads. A lot of conversation, humor and information can flow there. You can ignore it when you want, or jump in when you can – and when you do, there will probably be someone to respond to you. It’s comforting to know that you’re in a group and can always get someone’s attention.
  • Leave a note under a loved one’s door or on their doorstep.
  • Be generous to others. Giving to and helping others not only helps the recipient, it enhances your wellbeing too. Is there a way to help others around you, no matter how small the gesture?
  • Volunteer online. This is a great way to do good for others right from your home.
  • Teach your skills. If you’ve been wanting to show the world your special talents, now’s your chance. Use your phone to create short teaching videos and post these online.
  • Read a book to a child, grandparent or someone who is ill over the phone or via video chat.
  • Offer to help people who don’t usually use technology. Show parents, grandparents, other generations how to use the technology you take for granted and find easy to navigate. Remember, be patient!
  • Start a contact list of folks who need extra support in your community. Consider starting a social media group to share information and resources.
  • Set up a gratitude tree – every member posts a message or sends a text to other members to share something they are grateful for.
  • Set daily challenges with a buddy or group. These could include a healthy habit, a mindful practice, a creative pursuit. Be sure to encourage and check in daily to stay motivated.
  • Schedule dates and times to watch the same TV shows/movies with someone and message each other your thoughts along the way. It’ll be like sitting on the couch together!
  • Host a virtual get-together. Meet your friends for coffee or lunch online via group video chat. Celebrate birthdays, holidays or milestones.
  • Go on a virtual “double date” by video.
  • Do an online workout. There are thousands online! Do the fitness work together but in separate locations with your exercise buddy.
  • Have a dance party from separate locations.
  • Find educational materials to absorb. Take a virtual walk on the Great Wall of China, visit a museum, monument or natural wonder online.
  • Create study groups. Zoom with friends while studying. Everyone  can be on mute to not distract each other. You can still see each other and unmute if you have something to say. It’ll be like working together in the library surrounded by friends and fellow students. Being together in silence is still powerful connection.
  • Send funny photos or videos. Be positive and take time to laugh.
  • Send flashback messages to family and friends to say “look what we were doing 5 years ago today!” You could take out an old box of photos or go through your phone or social media. Reminisce together.
  • Rekindle a friendship with someone whom you haven’t been in touch with in a while.
  • Move your book group online – or join or start one. It’s a great time to read and talk about books.

Strangely, you may notice feeling socially connected even when physically distanced. Life has slowed down, offering a chance to connect deeper or in a more sustained way with people.

What strategies have helped you stay connected even while physically distant?

 

This video and list was compiled by Anthony Teasdale, PhD, a CAPS provider. Dr. Teasdale received a Master of Arts (M.A.) and a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Counseling Psychology from The University of Maryland at College Park.  His professional interests include identity development, self-compassion, diversity and multicultural issues, supervision and training, career development, and working with college student populations.  Outside CAPS, Dr. Teasdale enjoys watching sports, movies (especially Star Wars), playing tennis (badly), and travel.

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