How can you quarantine without feeling lonely? This is a question many of us will have to face over this long winter, whether you’re immunocompromised and are trying to minimize all potential exposure to the coronavirus, are waiting for test results, or have been diagnosed with Covid-19 (or have been exposed to someone who has).
I know that living in quarantine conditions can feel like long, desolate chunks of time, particularly if you live alone. But here’s where we get to put something back into our lives that maybe had gotten squeezed out in our pre-corona lives. And that’s checking in with people.
It’s not just something to do. It’s how we get through this, together. Humans are social animals. Even introverts, like me!, need human interaction. It’s a way to bond, find and give comfort, blow off steam, laugh, and get feel-good chemical running through our veins.
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A Simple Way to Quarantine Without Feeling Lonely
During this major life disruption that we’re living through, I advocate for bringing back the social call. You might not be able to stop by someone’s house. In fact, please don’t. Let’s keep this to spreading connection, not contamination, ha. But you can dang sure pick up the phone, or do a video a call using Zoom or Skype or Facetime.
My kids started distance learning yesterday here in Providence and you should hear how cute it is to hear fourth graders excitedly saying hi to each other and their teachers. We all need to see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices now. It’s a great way to spend time together, while also honoring social distance. I’ve heard from friends and listeners and that they’re doing things like having Zoom dinner parties, or Zoom happy hours, or cooking together on Zoom.
Find Your Rhythm and Routine
I did my first Zoom yoga class this morning and I got so happy to see my teacher and hear her voice, and be practicing at the same time with my regular peeps, even if I couldn’t really see them; I knew we were all inhabiting the same circle of practice and I left feeling really good.
Because rhythm and routine are so important right now because they’re grounding, thinking about giving yourself a regular time for doing your check ins, like at 5pm every day, or another time that works best for your new reality. That will help you make sure you do it.
The Joy Of Snail Mail
I’d like to suggest that we all write some letters to each other, too. It’s not as immediately rewarding as a phone or a Skype call, but if you start writing letters, you should start to get some back, too, and man getting a proper letter in the mail can really make your whole day.
A few years ago when my Mom went through a major purge of her possessions in prep for a move, she sent my several boxes filled with my stuff from high school and college. You know, things like year books and photo albums. It was a trip to leaf through that stuff. But what really blew my mind was that I had several shoe boxes filled with letters from friends. And these weren’t just a sentence or two written at the bottom of a birthday card, they were several pages, written front and back, complete with doodles and stickers. It’s hard to remember now, but we all used to write each other letters regularly. It’s just what we did. It was such a time capsule, a real immersion in what life was like back then, and so intimate, almost like reading a journal entry.
So sit down and see what comes out. Maybe it’s not an epic tome, but it’s a drawing or a painting–that would be super cool, someone will love to get that in the mail. Maybe it’s a poem. Or maybe it’s just a regular ole letter. It’s all good.
Any letters you write during this bizarre blip of history will help document what it was like to live through these times, because you know one day we will all be asking each other, what did you do during the coronavirus?
Reach Out, No Matter What It Looks Like
However you decide to reach out, you don’t have to have a grand agenda for connecting with folks. You don’t have to make a souffle together or come up with a detailed analysis of what’s going to happen in the economy. You really only need to reach out and start with a hi, how are you doing and let the rest evolve from there.
Here in Providence we have a really cool tradition called the good night lights. Every night at 8:30, people shine flashlights or phone lights in the direction of the children’s hospital to wish the kids who are sick a good night. It’s a cool way for the community to support kids and families in need of a spirit lift, and even though it’s not terribly personal it means a lot to the individuals who participate, on both sides.
Checking in with folks now is the equivalent of the good night lights. It demonstrates to the people you reach out to that you see them, you’re there, and you care.
Even just chatting about the weather and what the dog did and whatever chit chat you can think up is extra meaningful now. We really just need to know we’re not alone in this and we need to share in each other’s company.
We All Need Some Emotional Support Right About Now
Just try to prepare mentally for anyone who might be feeling fearful or anxious — I mean, who can blame them?! I definitely have my moments of feeling fearful and anxious. If you’ve got a pulse, you’re going to be cycling through some pretty big emotions these days, and if you’re already prone to anxiety or depression, which such a big chunk of us are, then even more so.
But if you’re feeling scared and anxious and reach out to someone else who is too it could just feed the fear instead of giving it way to dissipate. Try to reach out to those folks where you’re feeling better equipped to not get sucked into their fear. Because while everyone is entitled to their feelings, you are not obligated to feel anyone else’s feelings for them. If you talk to anyone who’s in a tizzy, just validate, validate, validate. You don’t have to talk them out of it. The act of listening and saying that you understand how they might be feeling that way will help. All you have to do is bear witness and you will be supporting them.