Sydney Gideon, LSW

In the present day, the entire world is practicing social distancing.  Many people are being instructed to shelter in place. Unfortunately, this means our face-to-face human interaction is being significantly limited and potentially eliminated completely. It’s important to understand that social distancing does not mean social isolation. While we can’t meet up with a friend for a drink or go to our family’s house for dinner, it’s vital to maintain contact with friends and loved ones. In a time like this, human relationships are of the upmost importance. 

We are fortunate to live in an age where it’s possible to continue with some of our normal day-to-day responsibilities virtually. Schools are moving their classes to online, doctors and therapists are meeting virtually with their clients, and gyms/exercise studios are offering classes online. All of these things are incredibly important in order to maintain some structure and normalcy in this incredibly abnormal time. 

In times of great uncertainty and stress it’s even more important to lean on the people in our lives. Nevertheless, what if the people we’re used to leaning on are quarantined in a different home, state or country? Social isolation as well as loneliness can have a dramatic social and physical impact on individuals. Social distancing can lead to a ““social recession”: a collapse in social contact that is particularly hard on the populations most vulnerable to isolation and loneliness- older adults and people with disabilities or preexisting health conditions.” Humans are inherently social beings. The presence of COVID-19 has put an inevitable strain on these connections leading to feelings of isolation. As humans, we may experience isolation as a physical state of emergency.

With the understanding of how important human relationships are, working to maintain these connections during this time is even more important. Check in on loved ones that are the most vulnerable. Call/facetime your parents and grandparents, it’s sure to make their day. Reach out to friends you may not have spoken to in a bit or individuals you’ve lost touch with. Reignite old friendships, we’re all connected by this experience. 

While social media can be a catalyst for stress and anxiety, it is also an amazing way to stay connected if used appropriately. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc all offer us the opportunity to express ourselves, connect with others, and likely relate to other individual’s experiences. Seeing individuals of all backgrounds, ages, and places in life in the same situation as ourselves can form a sense of comradery within the world. 

Even though you can’t meet up with friends or loved ones for a meal, you can still schedule virtual dinner plans and eat together over facetime. Go for a walk outside, enjoy the fresh air and call a friend or family member. Schedule a virtual happy hour with a group of friends via Zoom. If you’re exercising at home, doing the same workout at the same time as a friend that’s quarantining in another space can be a great way to connect while apart. Starting a book club or beginning to learn a new skill/language with a bigger group can be an excellent way to ensure consistent communication with others around a shared activity. Museums are offering online art viewing and tours, artists are having short concerts on Instagram live, and places of worship are providing live-streamed religious services. Support groups such as AA, NA and Al-Anon are offering virtual meetings in order to stay in contact and the ability to support each other. 

Regardless of who you are or where you are, we are all connected by this experience. Don’t underestimate the importance of human relationships. Social distancing does not have to equal social isolation. 

If you’ve found yourself struggling with maintaining interpersonal relationships it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!