Putting the social in social distancing
It’s a weird time right now.
Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic came in to our lives, social distancing has become a big thing.
Many of us are spending more time at home than we ever have before.
It’s easy to feel cut off from our hobbies and social lives, but it’s often these things that help to keep us feel connected and happy.
We all have a basic need to feel close and connected to people we care about, and even though we are all isolating for a little bit, it doesn’t mean we need to feel isolated.
In this blog, we take you through 5 ways that you can keep your social life active – even in the midst of a pandemic.
And while you’re here, if you’re supporting someone with an intellectual disability, make sure you check out our easy read on social distancing (PDF).
1. Talk to friends and family
This one is a no-brainer.
According to Lifeline Australia, one of the best things we can be doing right now is picking up the phone and having a chat.
Humans are social beings. When we are alone we become much more vulnerable – so taking the time to chat to the people in your life has never been more important.
If you have an internet connection and a smart device, you have dozens of ways to connect to the people who matter to you. Video chats, calling, instant messaging – it all counts.
Sure, it won’t be the same as your usual face-to-face catchups, but this won’t be forever and it’s the best we can do for the moment.
2. Make plans
Just like in our normal lives, we should keep making plans. What those plans look like will be a bit different to what we are used to, but given the circumstances that’s ok.
Maybe instead of your usual coffee date, you could have coffee together over video chat. Maybe you could chat while you cook the same meal? Or go for a walk around the neighbourhood while talking to a loved one on the phone? With a little bit of creativity and an open mind it’s still possible to have a pretty thriving social life.
Feeling as though you’re just passing the time is not a pleasant feeling, and that’s where making plans can be really helpful.
It’s easy to start feeling like this is just life forever now, but this strange time will pass. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we just don’t know how long that tunnel is yet.
Psychologists say it’s healthy and helpful to be making plans for life after coronavirus.
3. Sign up to a class
A lot of things have been temporarily cancelled - gym workouts, dance classes, and courses just to name a few.
There’s a big and beautiful shift in behaviour happening at the moment, where people are building a digital community around an activity.
Depending on what the activity is, there’s a chance these things are still running (but in a very different way). In many cases you might be able to keep your routine, but instead of going out to a place, you can do it in your lounge room.
There are some really creative people out there who are coming up with some great ideas. If you usually attend a gym or a dance class, there is a good chance you can stream this from home, but if you do something like archery or bowling you might find yourself out of luck.
There are new classes and courses popping up on all over the web right now and many of them are disability friendly – so it might be a good time to take up a new hobby while you wait for your old ones to open back up.
4. Do something for others
It’s no secret that doing something nice for others makes us happy. Researchers have shown time and time again it’s one of the things that brings us most joy. Being altruistic gets the happy hormones going and does something significant to our emotional state. Giving is an important part of our makeup and can be a powerful tool in helping you feel less isolated.
In the age of coronavirus, kindness is more important than ever.
Sure, our news feeds are clogged with negative coronavirus stories, but beyond that there are billions of stories, large and small, about people doing lovely things for others.
If you’re not sure how to help or get involved, here’s a good way to approach it.
- Think about your family and friends who might need a bit of help, and reach out to them first.
- Then think about your local community (like your neighbours) and see if there is anything they need. Many people are having a look on social media sites like Facebook to find ways to help the people in their area.
- Then, if you’re still feeling like you have a lot left to give you can get creative and think what you can do for someone who might live far away… You might be able to help coordinate support for someone in their area, or make something nice for them and send it over email.
If you’re based in Queensland, the state government has created a database of volunteers called the Care Army that you can sign up to join.
And before you dive head first in to helping those around you - it’s important that you prioritise your own safety and health before you help others. If you are not in a position to help (physically or emotionally) that is ok.
5. Ask for help
This is a hard time.
Not everyone is going to be ok.
If you are needing something, worried about something or are struggling with something, it’s important to reach out and ask for help.
Asking for help is one of the hardest things we can do, but it’s also one of the bravest.
If you need help, it’s very likely there is someone in your social network that wants to help you. We are all stronger together.
Help is available, whether it’s through friends and family or with a professional.
Where to get mental health help
A good place to start is with Beyond Blue, which offers online discussion forums.
If you feel you need additional support, you can make an appointment with your GP and discuss getting a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist, as well as telehealth and bulk billing options.
If you need immediate support and are in crisis, go to the emergency department of your local hospital, contact your local crisis assessment and treatment team (CATT) or psychiatric emergency team (PET), or call 000.
Other agencies that can help in a crisis are:
- Lifeline telephone counselling, 13 11 14 (24 hours)
- Suicide Call Back Service, 1300 659 467 (24 hours)
If you are an Endeavour Foundation employee:
Benestar is Endeavour Foundation’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider and they are enlisted by Endeavour Foundation to help, listen, and provide advice to you. If you need support, please reach out to Benestar – they are here for you.