Since public health officials have stressed that social distancing is the best way to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, you’ll likely be spending a lot more time at home in the coming weeks. Keeping your distance is an effective way to protect yourself and others from catching the virus, but isolating during such a stressful time can be mentally and emotionally difficult. If you’re wondering how to cope with loneliness during the coronavirus outbreak, I bear good news: Experts say you can do your part to slow the contagion while still feeling connected to others.
All individuals crave some level of human connection (shoutout to my fellow struggling extroverts). In order to satisfy that craving, you may find yourself scrolling through Twitter and Instagram more than ever before — but the problem with relying on your social media feeds is that a lot of what you see is probably related to the outbreak, which could exacerbate your anxiety. Surely, there’s something to be said for staying informed about the latest news updates, and seeing what others in your network are thinking or feeling, but keep in mind that there are other ways to accomplish both of those things if you feel that social media is having a detrimental effect on your emotional and mental wellbeing.
When the loneliness starts getting the best of you, simply try one of these creative strategies for instantly cultivating feelings of connection.
1. Throw A Netflix Party.
Watching Grey’s Anatomy or The Office is way more fun when you and your besties can converse about the heartfelt moments between characters or the hilarious hijinks they get into (looking at you, Jim Halpert). Luckily, the Netflix Party Chrome browser extension allows you to do just that.
Not only does the extension synchronize playback so you’re watching the film or TV episode at the exact same time, but it also has a group chat feature for you all to share a few LOLs, emojis, and other reactions throughout the viewing experience. You could even turn it into a drinking game — like taking a sip any time Michael Scott brags to the camera about his managerial skills (warning: this could get messy).
2. Have A Dinner Or Drinks Date Over FaceTime
Amanda Ruiz, a licensed professional counselor and founder of The Counseling Collective, says that now is the perfect time to use technology to your advantage.
Rather than eating dinner alone, make a plan to enjoy a meal with a friend, family member, or partner by using FaceTime. Why not tackle the same recipe, and cook together while you’re video chatting? You could also organize a virtual happy hour with a group of besties, and catch up over a glass or two of wine, homemade sangria, margs, or mocktails.
3. ‘Meet’ Your New Matches.
Did you know that Bumble has an in-app video chat feature? That means that even if you’re practicing social distancing and avoiding dates IRL, you can still get some face time with your crushes. As soon as you’ve matched with someone, all you have to do is hit the video icon in the top right-hand corner of your convo screen. (Note: Only women get to make the first move on video chat).
Interacting over video chat is a great way to get a feel for your chemistry and communication compatibility, as facial cues can reveal far more than DMing or texting. Who knows? While in isolation, you could very well have your first date with “The One.”
4. Start A Virtual Club.
Whether you’re eager to catch up on the latest celebrity memoirs, dating podcasts, or documentaries, now is a great time to launch a virtual club where you can share your thoughts and have thought-provoking discussions.
If you’re starting a book club, Goodreads allows you to establish an online group where you can keep track of members, provide deets on your online meetings, and moderate convos on a discussion board. For other types of clubs, consider making a Facebook page where you can share viewing/listening suggestions and post the schedule for your virtual meetings. You can use Google Forms or Survey Monkey to vote on new reads, flicks, shows, or podcasts. Then, host your virtual discussions via Skype, Google Hangouts video chat, Zoom, or another similar service.
5. Tune Into A Virtual Concert.
As more concerts and music festivals have gotten canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak, many musicians — including Chris Martin from Coldplay, Katherine McPhee, and Keith Urban — are recording live performances from their own homes to keep fans entertained.
On March 16, Martin shared a virtual concert that included a number of Coldplay’s classics, as well as a teaser for a new song. John Legend also live-streamed a performance from his official Instagram account Tuesday at 4 p.m. EST.
The app Squad allows you to screenshare with a friend, so you can stream concerts at the same time. And hey, you won’t have to deal with crowds or overpriced beer.
Check out a full list of upcoming virtual concerts on NPR.
6. Take A Virtual Cooking Class.
Now that you have some extra time on your hands to whip up a delicious meal (and hopefully, have stocked up on some essentials), head over to Antoni Porowski’s Instagram account for some culinary inspiration.
The Queer Eye resident food expert just launched a new series hilariously titled “Quar Eye: Cooking Lessons in Quarantine,” which takes you through the steps of relatively simple yet satiating recipes. Porowski’s first lesson teaches you how to make the “Keep Calm-lette.” It’s the perfect dish to whip up with a friend or family member, and you can compare results while you chow down after the class.
7. Play Online Games With Friends.
Nearly any board or card game you can think of, from Yahtzee to chess, can be played online, which means that you can indulge that competitive streak without leaving your home. Challenge your friends to a game of Uno or shoot some virtual pool via Facebook instant games, or wheel and deal your way to fortune in an online game of Monopoly. In need of a few laughs? You can’t go wrong with a digital round of the outrageous Cards Against Humanity.
8. Start A Creative Competition.
There’s hardly a better time to get the creative juices flowing and rediscover a long lost artistic passion. A friend of mine recently participated in a playwriting “bake-off” — where each member was sent five “ingredients” to include in their story (a certain setting, theme, etc.), and submitted their finished piece by the deadline the next day.
You can totally adapt this idea to a variety of other art forms, too. Why not launch a songwriting, poetry, painting, or graphic design challenge? All you need are a few friends or acquaintances with the same hobby. Once you’ve decided on the guidelines, schedule a video chat to discuss and provide feedback on your masterpieces.
9. Get A Social Sweat On.
While many gyms and fitness studios have closed, a number of them are offering virtual classes to members and non-members alike to get their sweat on — and while they’re stuck at home.
From bootcamps and barre to yoga and Piloxing (Pilates + boxing, FTW), Classpass offers a plethora of digital classes to choose from. Also, Planet Fitness is currently streaming a ton of workouts via their Facebook page — and those classes are available to non-members free of charge.
Enlist a workout buddy to participate in the class of your choosing, and after streaming it at the same time, catch up over a recovery smoothie or shake via video chat or a phone call.
10. Reach Out To Neighbors.
Nextdoor is a social app for communities that allows you to interact with neighbors by posting discussions, commenting on local news, recommending services and businesses, and sharing opportunities. If you feel out of touch with what’s going on in your community right now, I highly suggest signing up.
In my Boston neighborhood, there have been all kinds of amazing discussions on Nextdoor recently — including one member who planned nightly singalongs of “Sweet Caroline,” and another who offered doorstep delivery of her home-cooked vegan stews. Whether you’re eager to help someone in need by running an errand or need a recommendation for a delivery service, Nextdoor provides a wonderful way to connect with those who live around you.
11. Lend A Helping Hand.
You can make a difference right from your own home. Here are some ways to get started:
- UNV Online Volunteering, which is run by the United Nations, connects volunteers with organizations working for peace and sustainable human development around the world.
- Volunteer Match links volunteers to virtual opportunities both in their local communities and across the globe.
- Idealist.org is a valuable tool for finding volunteer opportunities with a nonprofit focus — and you can search by your focus area, schedule and more.
- DoSomething.org allows you to virtually volunteer for a wide variety of causes, from mental health and homelessness to bullying and the environment.
- Amnesty Decoders, which is operated by Amnesty International, is a digital volunteer network that helps conduct research into global human rights violations.
- LiveYourDream.org offers flexible online action opportunities for you to advocate, raise awareness, and participate in a global movement to empower women and girls.
- Red Cross has an opportunity perfect for people already glued to their phones. It utilizes digital volunteers during times of disaster to monitor online discussions and share important updates on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
If you live by yourself and are self-isolating, then you may be especially prone to loneliness — but even if you have roomies, or live with a partner or family, it’s still entirely understandable if you’re missing the company of classmates, coworkers, neighbors, and friends.
“Humans are social creatures,” says Ruiz. “We are often energized by being around other people and we get support, encouragement, and love from others.”
Melanie Shapiro, a licensed clinical social worker, says the best way to combat loneliness is to stimulate your mind, body, and heart — and reaching out to others to participate in an engaging discussion, game, or activity is a phenomenal way to accomplish that.
According to Suzie Pileggi Pawelski, well-being expert and co-author of HAPPY TOGETHER: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts, self-care is also key to enabling healthy and fulfilling connections with loved ones. “We must take care of ourselves in order to better show up for others,” she tells Elite Daily. “It can be a daily yoga or meditation practice. Or it may be going for a run or walk outside, or delving into a good book.”
When loneliness strikes, remember this: social distancing is only a temporary effort. More importantly, you can still be social while staying safe — you just have to get a little creative.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support.
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