In this new world of lockdowns and social distancing
The importance of connections
Written by Donna Cameron
Now more than ever, we need to remember the importance of human connections and being with our people. Prior to the pandemic, social distancing, and lockdowns, we humans were a social bunch. We caught up with friends for coffee, attended festivals, movies and many lunches and dinners. Once the workday or working week was over, we would head out to fulfil our social needs. During this time, it was often common for me to remind clients in therapy about the importance of their own downtime without the company of others. That time is important for them to reconnect with their own thoughts and to recharge their own battery.
Since the pandemic, the tables have turned. Now more than ever, instead of needing individual downtime, we need time with other people around us. Lockdowns have meant that so many people are restricted from seeing their friends and family, and this “new normal” is turning into our routine way of living.
Humans need other humans around them. We get energy from others. We have joy and experiences with others and we create memories with others. Even introverts still need some time with others for their own mental health and happiness. Since the beginning of time, we have spent time with other people in tribes, communities, and societies. This social isolation that has occurred since 2020, is causing more issues than we might be aware of.
The zoom calls, the virtual drinks and nibbles are just not cutting it. In the beginning zoom calls and virtual drinks were seen as a nice way to stay in contact with others and to make sure everyone was doing ok. Now the novelty has worn off. Instead of finding other ways to stay connected, many people are alone, just waiting for this pandemic to be over so that life can resume. But what will happen if, at the end of all this, we are so fatigued and emotionally flat that we don’t have the energy to reconnect again?
How can we protect ourselves from this social fatigue, when half the country continues to go in and out of lockdown? How can we hold on to these important connections when we need to maintain our distance, when events are not occurring and when our favourite restaurants are closed?
Some of the signs that tell us we are missing these social connections are sadness and fatigue. A surprising fact that many are not aware of, is that a person can have too much downtime and relaxation. Without the stimulation of social connections, your brain can feel like it has gone to mush and any excitement for planned activities can diminish. Even if a friend calls to say they have an adventure booked, your first thoughts can be “I really can’t be bothered”. We are creatures of habit, so hanging out in our tracksuits and not worrying about makeup and grooming, has turned into a comfort for many.
Withdrawing from conversations, and not feeling the energy to go out for that walk or yoga class are also signs that you may be entering into social isolation.
Of course, this can be more serious for the people living alone, but it also occurs for the ones with flatmates and family members. They are still missing the joy and excitement that only friend time can provide.
So, what can we do about this social isolation issue and how can we maintain these important connections when the world around us is unpredictable?
1. Get out and about as soon as you can after lockdown. Call your friends and commit to a time to meet up as soon as you can. You don’t need a reason to catch up with loved ones.
2. Be creative with how you socialize - even if it is just meeting for a walk or a picnic in the park. The big events might be cancelled but there are many ways you can still have fun and connect with others.
3. If you can return to the office some days, do it. The chats around the coffee machine about what you watched on television last night are also very important in maintaining our social connections.
4. If you are stuck in lockdown, try the video calls again but set a theme and have a task. Dress up for an online trivia game with friends, or get back to reading and start a book club with your mates. You can watch football or a movie together. It doesn’t just have to be a conversation over the phone.
Remember that many around you are also experiencing this social fatigue. it is also important to check-in and encourage these social connections with others for everyone’s mental health.
We do not like to be alone. We want the fun, the friendships and the social interaction. This pandemic might have taken the ease of connecting with others away from us, but we can all get creative and fight through this to keep these connections alive and strong,
Hopefully one day very soon, we all will be needing Mondays off to recover from the weekend that was!
The importance of connections The importance of connections