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Staying connected while being physically apart: wellbeing in the time of social distancing

Just because we can’t be physically close to our family and friends, doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected.

During the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we’re asking you to, where possible, avoid contact with people who don’t live in your household. This will prevent the spread of germs, help stop people from getting sick and it will save lives. We expect this to be hard – it’s hard for all of us. But it’s the right thing to do at this time.

We also know that feeling socially isolated can impact your mental wellbeing. It can make people feel sad, anxious, lonely and depressed. We want to make sure that during this time, you have ways to stay connected to your family, friends and community, even if you can’t see them in person.

Below are some suggestions for different ways you can stick together during this time, even when they’re far apart. We want to hear your suggestions, too. Head on over to our Facebook page or Instagram page and share how you are planning to stay connected during the pandemic.

Using technology to connect

We’re lucky to live in a digitally connected world. Here are some ways you can connect with others wherever they are, using your phone or computer.

Video calling

Most smartphones and computers can make and receive video calls, so that you can see and hear the person you’re talking to. If you haven’t tried video calling before, BBC have made this guide about the different ways to make video calls on different phones, while this article by Tech Crunch takes you through different video calling options for different groups of people.

Online groups

Starting an online group where people can chat or leave messages can help you stay connected at any time. You might set up a group for your family, your colleagues, your street or suburb, or your friends. Your group might discuss anything and everything, or you might have a focus, like an online book club or gardening discussion group.

Digital games

Do you enjoy getting together with others to play games? While sitting around a table with friends to play boardgames is a no-no right now, you can have a similar experience playing games through apps, consoles or streaming services. Here’s a list of games for small and large groups to get you started.

Online classes

While they are closed, lots of places that offer exercise and cultural classes are operating online. You could take an exercise class, stretch out with some yoga, feel the beat in a dance class or learn how to paint through an online art studio. Classes like these are a great way of feeling connected to other people without talking about viruses the whole time.

Virtual choirs and bands

Through video chat, lots of people have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to move their choirs and music groups online. Find one that’s set up or start your own and make some music.

Social media

While too much social media isn’t always great for your mental wellbeing, a little bit can go a long way. Checking in with others, sharing a nice photo or finding a funny video are all possible through social media platforms. Just remember that you get to decide who and what goes on your feed – if you’re seeing too much news (or fake news), or negative people are getting you down, you can hide, mute or unfollow this content.

A person plays on a piano keyboard while holding their phone with a piano tutorial on it.

Are there any virtual classes you could take during this time of staying in?

No-tech ideas for connecting from a distance

Not everyone wants to or can use technologies like smartphones and computers to connect with others. But there are still ways you can connect without using any digital technology at all.

Write letters and postcards

When was the last time you picked up a pen and paper and wrote a message to someone? Write to someone close to you, write to someone you haven’t talked to in a while, or pop a postcard in the neighbour’s letterbox. Receiving mail is a rare treat these days, and you never know, they just might write back.

Share books or movies

Drop books or DVDs you’re finished with into the letterboxes of neighbours and friends. Bonus points if you accompany them with a note saying why you enjoyed them. Encourage them to let you know what they think and pass the favour along to someone they know.

Participate in a bear hunt or create your own scavenger style fun

One of the cutest stories to come out of the pandemic? Suburb-wide bear hunts where neighbours have displayed their teddies on fences, roofs and in windows so children (and the young at heart) can play ‘spot the bear’ from a distance. It doesn’t have to be a bear hunt, either. You could make any common object the prize of your scavenger hunt.

Have a street singalong

It’s as simple as it sounds – get everyone out on their driveways or balconies, pick a song or make one up, and make some noise. Not sure where to start? Let the Italians inspire you.

Good, old-fashioned conversation

Whether it’s with someone in your household over the kitchen table, or a friend on the phone, nothing beats a good chat. We’ve listed all types of fancy ways to connect above, but sometimes a simple conversation feels the best.

A mum and daughter lie on a bed writing a letter.

Writing letters is an activity the whole family can use to stay in touch with loved ones.

Keep in mind those without large networks

Not everyone has a large group of friends or family to check in on them. If you know of or notice someone who seems like they might be a bit lonely, make an effort to check in. Pop a note in their letterbox, send them a message, or just give a friendly wave and ‘How are you?’ as you walk by (without getting too close).

We often think of older people becoming isolated in their homes at times like these, but it’s not just the elderly who might become lonely. Young people who live alone, single parents whose kids are now suddenly at home all the time, shift workers and people who travel to work away from their families – there are a lot of people in our communities who could do with a friend right now, and connecting can make you both feel good.

Care for the carers

During our response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), there will be some people in our communities who are doing a lot of caring and connecting with others. These will be frontline medical staff, emergency services workers, and people staffing hotlines and public services. There will also be the people in family groups who take care of the older generations or the children, or the neighbours who are making sure everyone on the street is doing okay.

You might be used to these people in your life being the ones who care for you, but now you need to take a moment to check in with them, and make sure they’re looking after themselves, too. Even those among us who seem the strongest need to know they’re seen and valued.

Feeling over-connected? Take a break

If everyone in your social circle is suddenly making plans to get in touch, or you’re living in a busy household and just can’t get away from others, you might actually feel a little over-connected and want some time to yourself. Taking a break from everyone else and just focusing on you is also an important part of selfcare. Read a book, watch a movie, meditate, go for a walk or have a bath. Whatever helps you relax and find peace in your mind is a good move right now.

Remember these lessons when the pandemic is over

Feeling connected to other people is good for us all the time, not just during a time of crisis. When the pandemic is over, remember what you’ve learned about the value of your relationships with others. Keep checking in, keep communicating, keep making the time to prioritise the relationships that make you feel great. It’ll be good for all of us.