How to stay connected with others – when you can’t be with them

We may currently all have to be socially distant, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still come together in other ways. In fact, it’s during times like this that we need to reach out more than before, especially if you’re experiencing lockdown all on your own.

I can see you!

‘Zoom, just one look and then my heart went boom…’ If you’re like us and have been singing this ‘70s hit non-stop since the lockdown hit, you’re not alone. Zoom has literally been keeping us going. As has House Party and FaceTime.

The threat of not seeing our nearest and dearest for a few months suddenly makes you want to see them, and this is where video calling comes into its own. Being able to see, and not just hear, your mates and family is really special.

There are so many ways to connect, but if you get fed up with a bog-standard video call, why not try some and add some fun to your weekly catch-ups?

I’ve now participated in three virtual pub quizzes, as well as a birthday catch-up for my husband’s 50th. We’re planning on keeping these going through lockdown – each with its own theme.

One friend tells me that they have regular games night with the kids and her parents across video chat. They’ve played Pictionary, Bingo and Who Am I? and all have helped keep the connection between grandchildren and grandparents alive. 

Find your tribe

While I love social media, normally I dip in and out of it, however, during this pandemic, it’s quite literally been a lifeline for me. The lovely Blaire Palmer, who frequently writes for us here at This Girl Is On Fire, recently set up a Facebook group for working mums who are also juggling home schooling.

As someone who has always home schooled, she decided to share her advice online and it’s been amazing for me to find other people going through the same thing as me. We support each other, try and find solutions to problems and just feel listened to. Knowing I wasn’t the only one failing at both work and schooling has made me feel so much less stressed.

Another friend has started a virtual book club, using a What’s App group to keep everyone connected while reading the book and hosting a monthly chat on Zoom to discuss it. If reading is your thing and you can’t find a book club online, don’t forget you can join ours!

Your tribe will be out there somewhere. Don’t be shy. Jump on in, comment, support – you’ll feel so connected even though you’re talking to a group of strangers. And maybe some of them won’t stay as strangers for much longer.

Work it!

Being housebound is sending us all a bit stir crazy, so not surprisingly, many of us have turned to online workouts. While it’s great to follow any video on You Tube, live classes with a remote, yet real, teacher, alongside fellow workout mates, is a great way to feel connected.

My friend and neighbour Lou has set up a Facebook group with friends, so we can all exercise along with her. The free sessions include ‘90s aerobics (oh, how I love a grapevine) and strength training. For me, I’ve enjoyed the workout but it’s also lovely seeing Lou’s face and connecting with her friends.

“When the CV pandemic kicked off, I just felt like I really wanted to try and give two things to my friends,” she says. “One was a bit of release in the form of exercise and the other was a way to still hang out, but in a non-boozy type of way!

“I’ve also always tried to encourage friends and family to do more exercise and saw this as an opportunity to see if people could be encouraged to do a little bit of fun fitness stuff in the comfort of their own homes.”

Little did she know that she would end up getting lots from hosting these regular classes.

She says: “Loads of people I know – my mum and aunt included – would NEVER have thought of even trying an online class, but they have been doing one of my sessions every week which has given me the greatest pleasure. I may continue these even after lockdown!”

A few miles down the road, Hannah Verdier, who runs Everybody Training, has been working out with her street every day. Everyone stands on their driveways, ensuring they are socially distant, but it’s still bringing together her community.

“Any movement makes you feel better and I’ve realised that connection is so important while you’re exercising,” she told me.

“Seeing other people being calm and moving helps – and knowing that I’ve made a commitment to go outside once a day means whatever mood I’m on I need to plaster on a smile and get on with it.

“Chats come out of it, too, and we find things out about each other and share feelings that we wouldn’t if we were rushing around.”

LOLs and more

While being able to see people is so important, don’t dismiss texting and in particular, What’s App. I’m part of a couple of What’s App groups that are just brilliant for giving me a boost when I’m having a tough time. We also have a neighbourhood group so we can share funny memes or information about more serious things.

Danielle has created a What’s App group with her university friends, who she should be on holiday with right now.

“It’s gutting that we can’t be on our holiday, but I’m so glad we have our group right now,” she explains. “We’re all going through similar things and it’s been great being able to share our experiences and cheer each other up when lockdown apathy strikes.”

Keeping the kids connected

For kids of all ages, the pandemic is probably an even bigger shock than it is for us adults. They’re used to spending five days a week with their classmates and teachers. They probably have lots of after school and weekend clubs, all of which has now been taken away. So, how do you ensure your kids are staying connected without leaving the house?

Mental health charity Mind suggest being a little less strict about social media and access to screens during these times.

“If your children would normally go to school or college, they will be used to being around other children for several hours a day,” they say. “They might find it difficult to be removed from this, especially if they’re also worried about their health.”

One mum, Julia, says she allows her teen to play Fortnite more than usual during these unsettled times.

“It’s more than just gaming for him. It’s how he connects with his mates on a daily basis,” she says.

“I’d like him to be perhaps not be on it for as long as he is, but I also realise that these are unusual times, and this is how he can keep up with his mates – and be out of my hair for a few hours!”

How are you staying connected during these testing times? Share your tips below.

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