Staying connected with friends and loved ones is challenging right now, but it’s also never been more important.
“The fear and anxiety we feel as a result of our powerlessness during this time makes it even more important to spend time in the areas where we do have power to make things better,” says Diana Flemma, a licensed clinical professional counselor.
Fortunately, even with social distancing requirements, you can still make time to interact and bond — all you need is a good Wi-Fi connection and a little extra resourcefulness.
Here are seven ways to stay connected with the people you love.
1. Plan Activities With the People You Live With
If you live with other people — whether it’s family, friends, a significant other, or a housemate — it can be easy to take their presence for granted.
Take this time to (re)connect and strengthen your bond with each other.
If you’re working from home during this time, you can also take work breaks with your housemates, Joyner says.
Schedule an afternoon walk on your calendar, meet in the kitchen for coffee, or take lunch at the same time, she suggests.
2. Organize a Neighborhood Get-Together
Now is a great time to build a stronger bond with your nearby community.
Instead of just making small with your neighbors as you grab the mail, suggest a monthly get-together.
You could spread out your chairs six feet apart on someone’s driveway, gather at a nearby park on separate picnic blankets, or do a cul-de-sac potluck where everyone brings their own lunch to enjoy.
3. Take an Online Class With Friends
Even if you can’t spend time with your friends in person, you can still create new memories and enjoy shared experiences by taking an online class together.
“It helps to keep you motivated and provides some loose structure to otherwise unstructured times,” Flemma says.
Plus, taking a class gives you something new to talk about with your friends.
Use this time to dive into a non-work-related hobby or activity you’ve been interested in, Joyner says.
Joyner does a Zoom Zumba class with a group of her friends. “We’re seeing each other, we’re having fun, and we’re taking care of our physical health,” she says.
4. Start A Book, Movie, or TV Club
If you’re looking for a way to connect with others while still indulging your reading or binge-watching habits, consider starting a media club with a group of friends or colleagues.
Depending on your group’s interests, you could choose a book, movie, or TV series to engage with — or rotate between the three every month.
You can then schedule weekly or bi-monthly Zoom meetings to discuss the latest chapters or episodes.
5. Explore a New Outdoor Hobby
There are a handful of other outdoor activities perfect for social distancing, including golf, rollerblading, surfing, tennis, or simply kicking a soccer ball back and forth on a grassy field.
6. Go Old-School and Write Letters
Your connection with others isn’t limited to socially distanced gatherings or screens.
You can still catch up with the people you care about by writing each other letters or sending postcards, Joyner says.
“It feels so good to sit down and write reflections about life just for the fun of it,” Flemma adds. “It’s also a gift to get an actual letter in the mail among bills and mailers.”
7. Share Your Happiness and Gratitude
During a pandemic, it’s critical to create space for joy and gratitude. That can take the form of texting your friends funny articles and memes, or sharing daily gratitudes with the people you live with, says Flemma.
“Expressing gratitude is a natural way to combat negativity,” she says.
You can also connect with others by practicing “Joy Spotting,” which Flemma says is when you “actively notice the things in your day that bring a moment of joy.”
Think: the birds singing outside your window, the first sip of coffee in the morning, or a positive email from your manager.
Embracing the New Normal
Regularly connecting with your loved ones, friends, and community can do wonders for your mental health and happiness.
But remember: It’s not a cure-all.
If you’re making the time to connect with others and still experiencing frequent anxiety, stress, or sadness, consider talking to a professional.
“You don’t have to suffer alone. If you’re feeling down and overwhelmed, therapy right now is accessible,” Joyner says.