Building Connection and Engagement: New Strategies in the Era of Social Distancing
Over the past months, we’ve learned a lot about COVID-19 and how to protect ourselves physically. Social distancing is an important step in helping prevent us from contracting or spreading coronavirus. However, as the pandemic continues you may be feeling a lack of connection. Maintaining your relationships and finding community is possible! With some special care and planning, creative strategies for engaging with others during this time may help ease the stress and disconnection many people are feeling. Whether your preference is for live or online interactions, following health experts’ recommendations will help you design connection builders that work for you.
Many businesses have moved their services online and offer a wealth of ways to participate in communities. You can take classes, whether they're academic or creative. Most houses of worship hold services online. Many gyms or other fitness centers have developed live online workouts. Explore businesses that are a part of your usual routine to learn of any online alternatives they offer- most are finding creative ways to help us stay engaged.
Missing face-to-face gatherings with your loved ones? There are many platforms to video chat with friends or family online. Service providers such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and WhatsApp make the distance disappear with the click of a button.
In this new environment, it’s even possible to share a hobby or activity online. Play games with friends through platforms like Steam, invite loved ones to contribute to a shared playlist on Spotify, or host a movie night through Netflix Party! If you want to make some new friends, The Grand hosts small group facilitated discussions about important topics that you can sign up for here:https://www.thegrand.world/attend, and Cirkel is a platform that helps foster intergenerational relationships for personal and professional purposes at https://www.cirkel.world/sign-up
If you are in a population vulnerable to COVID-19, you may choose to minimize contact with others as much as possible. Unsure what is best? Discussing recommendations with your doctor may help. If you feel comfortable seeing others socially, experts tell us that it is safer to gather outdoors. You may have to bundle up, but there are ways to enjoy being outside together! You might invite friends to a fire pit night or outdoor movie. Feeling active? Plan a socially distanced group walk or bike ride, or hike, ski, or ice skate together. Following the current guidelines recommended by health experts, make the appropriate distances, masks, and other precautions an expected part of your adventures to maximize everyone’s safety.
Consider tapping into your creativity (and any unexpected free time you might have) to make and deliver surprises for neighbors or friends who live nearby. You might gift them with baked goods, things you’ve picked from your garden, or homemade art.
Helping others is especially important during these times, and has been shown to be an important component of happiness. If you’re interested in service work, look into local community organizations and nonprofits to see how you can help. Many live opportunities can be found; if you prefer to help from a distance, online options are available too. If you need guidance finding other prospects, check out these resources. The Red Cross has long been a clearinghouse for local volunteer opportunities. FInd a match for your interests at How To Volunteer. VolunteerMatch at Help with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) offers local in-person and virtual opportunities to help during the pandemic. All For Good’s website AllForGood.org lists volunteer opportunities in a variety of fields that are available in your local community, some live and some from home. The company Mon Ami Companions at Mon Ami Companions - So much more than a visit matches phone callers and errand runners with those in need. Regardless of the amount of time you have or the skills you can offer, there are ways you can serve.
One surefire way to help keep your kids entertained is introducing them to resources for listening to stories. Audible has a huge library of audio books in 8 languages, including children’s books and young adult literature. If you like a more unusual experience, check out Story Time from Space at https://storytimefromspace.com, which has a collection of children’s stories read by astronauts.
If you want to help the children in your life get moving, check out Helpful Tips for Staying Active at Home with Kids. This offers a list of creative and fun ways to encourage kids to embrace exercise.
Even in summer, during school breaks, and with limited hours of live school, learning doesn’t have to stop! Consider exploring at-home science experiments for some family fun. You’ll find that Bill Nye has a wealth of step-by-step experiment video demos. Go to Home Demos, find one that interests your family, and let the learning begin! Some of the experiments may require adult help depending on the age of your children.
If you prefer the idea of going on an adventure right from your home, you can check out 30+ Virtual Field Trips for Kids. Here you’ll find adventures from all around the world that you can experience right from home.
Regardless of the strategies you use, taking steps to foster engagement with your chosen communities is so important, especially during this time of Covid-19. Continuing to build connection will help you to have fun, feel supported, and relieve stress. Be well!
-Annelie Delgado with Danica Delgado