by: E.B. Johnson
As another pandemic year rages one, many of us are feeling the crush of a life spent locked inside away from others. It’s hard to be cut off from the social lives that once brought us much-needed joy. It’s hard to watch the loss of life and industry. We have to find ways to combat the chaos, and the best way to do this is through connection. How can we stay connected in the wake of a deadly pandemic, though? The answer requires a shift in perception and a shift in self.
The space in togetherness.
Although some of us like to deny it — by and large — we are social creatures that thrive on our social connections and the vibrant lives that we lead (House, Landis & Umberson, 1988). We are happiest when we are busy with those we care about most, but for many that have been taken away entirely. Connection is needed more than ever, but this physical and social connection is denied us. What can we do? It’s crucial that we address this need and find better ways to fulfill it in the pandemic age.
Even though we are separated by more space than ever, we are not alone in our experience.
We are living in a new world that’s limited by travel restrictions and social distancing regulations. We mask up on the rare occasions that we leave home, and we avoid our friends and family as though we might spread the plague. It’s hard to remember a time when we felt so divided from the things that mean so much to our daily happiness and wellbeing. How can we carry on when it feels like we’ve lost touch with everyone and everything we’ve ever known? We have to allow ourselves to find new ways to connect in the pandemic age.
How to find connection in the pandemic age.
When you’ve been locked up in your house for more than a year, it can be hard to conceive of a world in which you feel connected again. It is possible to feel connected in this new pandemic age, though. From a shift in our perception, to a flat-out expanding of options, these are some of the best ways to dig in and plant roots with people who matter.
1. Change your perception
What do you think of when you hear the term, “connection”? Do you roll your eyes? Think of an intimate relationship? What does connection mean to you? For many, the idea of connection is something that’s limited to the world of initiate relationships. Once upon a time, the deepest connection you shared was with your long-term partner. But that’s not the case anymore.
It’s time for you to reshape the way you see connection and the bond you share with the world around you. The longer you limit your definition of being seen by the world to a physical, romantic relationship, the more unhappy (and less likely to thrive) you will become.
Take a step outside of this narrow definition and recognize all the other ways in which we can tap into that deep need to feel connected to the best parts of the world. Beyond a romantic relationship, you can feel a connection with your physical environment, your friends, your family, and even in the work that you do. Above all of that, though, we have a connection that we share with our true inner self — and this is one that should never be violated or denied.
2. Prioritize a self-relationship
Have you spent most of your adult life chasing after the relationships you share with others? Now that those have changed or been removed — how are you feeling when you look into the mirror? It’s imperative that we prioritize the relationships we have with ourselves, as well as the way we allow them to be treated. Feeling connected to others is great, but truly connecting with ourselves empowers us to change the course of our life path.
Dig deep and reconnect with your core sense of self. Foster self-love and develop a self-care routine that allows you to tune in to yourself, and tune out the world when things get tough. You need to prioritize a solid relationship with yourself right now, so that you’re equipped to get through the hard times still to come.
Start small with your new self-love project. When you wake up in the morning, write in a journal, or practice vocalizing into a mirror, the things you like about yourself. Likewise, make sure you’re taking at least a day (or half a day) each week to simply tune into yourself and your needs. Use this time to calm your nerves, still your whirring mind, and find that peace that you may be lacking. A strong relationship with self is the basis from which we build our relationships with others.
3. Plug-in to physical pleasure
It’s not always enough to be connected to our inner selves alone. In order for us to fully experience the joy of life, we have to be able to plug in to all the physical pleasure that’s everywhere around us. When you really root into your environment, you can experience it in a different way that allows you to shift your perception more easily. Part of this requires gratitude, but another part of it requires being present in the right environment for your wellbeing.
Allow yourself to get away from the desk and out of your head. What do you love about your home or immediate physical environment? What brings you comfort or joy in that space? Celebrate the things you appreciate, and if you need to, engage in some high-quality escapism.
What’s important is that you find a way to be present and at peace in your environment. If you have to be there, you better find a way to love it. Create a corner that’s entirely your own. Fill your home with colors and light that bring you a sense of calm. If you are lucky to live near an outdoor space, turn off the phone and get outside for 20 minutes. This presence in nature is a powerful sedative and a powerful balm when we’re struggling with lockdown.
4. Creatively use communication
Communication is the foundation on which every good relationship is built. As humans, we use communication to bond and express our needs and expectations. We need to talk to one another. We need to see the faces of our friends, family, and loved ones, and we need meaningful outlets in which to express our feelings and what’s going on. That hasn’t changed — even with the need for social isolation. If we want to ensure our happiness, we have to find creative ways to reconnect with our friends and family.
Don’t hit snooze on your social time, just because you can’t inhabit those same old spaces you’re used to using. It’s still crucial that you have time with your friends to open up and talk about what’s going on. Endless Zoom calls don’t always do the trick, though. If you want to keep yourselves excited about talking, get creative.
Sign yourselves up for a murder mystery night online. Subscribe to a digital wine tasting and education night. There’s no end to the ways you can revitalize your friendships, romance, all of it. Literally start writing letters to one another again. If you live nearby, meet for a short (distanced) daily walk and coffee break. This pandemic is a major inconvenience to our social needs, but it doesn’t have to be an absolute wall to connection with the people who matter.
5. Expand your options
There are many of us out there who are stuck in the house and feeling as though our happiness is pointless. We may have been dealing with small social circles and outlets before the pandemic, and now we’re more isolated and unhappy than ever. What can be done in this instance? Believe it or not, now is the time to expand your options. Thanks to technology and the forced developments of the pandemic age, you can now enhance and grow the quality of your life like never before.
Stop pretending as though you are completely cut off from the chance to socialize and find joy in the relationships you share with others. The world is your digital oyster and you should act accordingly. Now, more than ever, it’s possible to expand your social circle options.
There’s a whole new world of online courses, hobbie groups, and even therapy groups that have taken their work online. This means you can find new social horizons no matter where you are in the world — from the safety of your own home. Join an online theater circle. Sign up for a digital networking app like Clubhouse. You can still find new friends in the pandemic. You can build new support systems and even re-discover that love you’ve been chasing all your life.
Putting it all together…
Whether the pandemic threatens us or not, we are social creatures that thrive when we are serving a greater purpose alongside our own. We have a deep-seated need to connect with others, and an even deeper urge now that we’re dealing with so much mental and emotional distress. Instead of resigning yourself to isolation and misery, commit yourself to reconnecting.
Change your perception of what “connection” means. We don’t connect strictly with others outside of ourselves. We need a strong connection with self, and a strong connection with the world around us in order to survive and thrive. Prioritize a relationship with yourself and find better ways to connect with your physical environment in meaningful and immersive ways. Plug-in to physical pleasure. Find more creative ways to reach out to the people who matter and make sure you maintain the communication channels that you can. Don’t be afraid to expand your options, though. The world is your digital oyster. There’s never been more ways to build new friend groups or discover the social circles that we need to feel seen and supported.
- House, J., Landis, K., & Umberson, D. (1988). Social relationships and health. Science, 241(4865), 540–545. doi: 10.1126/science.3399889