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5 Ways to Connect Socially During COVID-19 Self-Isolation

Opportunities for ‘Distant Socializing’ in the Time of Social Distancing

With the state of emergency declared in Ontario because of COVID-19, many are self-isolating to protect themselves and others. While isolating or ‘socially distancing’ ourselves can limit the spread of the virus, it can also lead to feelings of loneliness. Humans are inherently social creatures. In a time where most of our basic needs are met with the click of a button or a trip to the store, we continue to strive for comfort, reassurance, self-esteem needs, and to feel worthwhile. Research shows that social support from valued others increases our life satisfaction, self-confidence, ability to cope with distress, and mitigates stress and negative mental health symptoms.

As many of us take shelter in our homes during this unexpected period in history, we can find solace in the fact that we are in an unprecedented age of social connection. Social media has allowed us the ability to connect in new and creative ways. At the same time, it can be a tiring and limiting way to socialize, especially when we find ourselves scrolling mindlessly on Instagram for hours. Here are some new, old, and forgotten methods of socializing from a distance.  

Seeking Innovative Interactions Online

Perhaps one of the consolations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is the knowledge that everybody is experiencing the same variations of loneliness, isolation, and boredom. A lot of your self-isolated friends are likely desperate for interaction! If you’re a gamer, multiplayer games that allow voice-chatting are a great way to amuse yourselves, work towards a shared goal and connect with others all at once. If you are less of a gamer and more of a Netflix fan, bond over your shared love of content-consumption using websites like Netflix Party. This site allows friends to chat while watching Netflix content together online, and is becoming a popular platform to socialize from a distance.

Normalize the Video Call

When people think of video calling, they often think of one of two scenarios: either they’re enrapt in an urgent conference call, or they’re talking to their parents, who are usually sitting much too close to the camera. We often forget that video calling can be useful for everyday check-ins. Your distant family members aren’t the only ones who enjoy seeing your face! Try replacing your 10 a.m. coffee chat with your coworker with an informal video call. If you have switched to at-home workouts, try video-chatting your gym buddy as you sweat through a cardio routine in your living room. Don’t be afraid to normalize video-calling by reaching out to those in your life you typically wouldn’t think to Facetime. 

Revive the Pen Pal

Letter-writing may seem like an outdated means of communication, but it can foster deep and meaningful connections with your loved ones. Unlike the average text message, writing a letter involves considerably more time and reflection, and the topics you discuss are usually more deliberate. It can thus be a profoundly introspective activity, much like writing in a journal. Sending mail is a thoughtful way of showing someone they’re on your mind while providing you with the opportunity to organize ideas and understand your experience. Older individuals who are more at risk of COVID19 and are likely also bored at home may appreciate your reaching out. 

Engage with Pets

Those of us self-isolating with a pet are in good company! The presence of an animal can be very therapeutic during times of fear and uncertainty. Cuddling your pet is a great way to release endorphins and oxytocin, which foster feelings of happiness and connection. 

In this period of social distancing, some pets can provide a great excuse to momentarily get outside from time to time. Walking your dog can become a healthy routine that allows you to check-in with yourself, get some fresh air, and catch up with neighbours (from a safe distance).

Connect with a Therapist Online

Self-isolating without family or roommates can be a lonely and emotionally-taxing experience. Self-isolating with panicked family and friends can be just as anxiety-inducing and draining. Virtual psychotherapy can allow individuals who are distressed, struggling, or who need someone to talk to, to connect with therapists from the comfort of their home. Reach out to CFIR online for secure video and teletherapy sessions. 

Nisha Mohan, B.A. is a counsellor at CFIR (Ottawa) and is currently in her final year of a Master of Arts program in Counselling Psychology at the University of Ottawa, pursuing research on the intersecting experiences of biculturalism and emerging adulthood. At the time of this publication, she is under the supervision of Dr. Aleks Milosevic, C.Psych. Nisha provides therapy and assessment to adults for difficulties related to anxiety and stress, depression and mood, anger and emotion regulation, grief and loss, learning challenges, life transitions, personal growth, existential meaning and purpose, and relationship struggles.