During lockdown, how can we fulfil our deepest human need for connection?…
Welcome to another crazy year!
In some ways this second wave of Covid is more manageable because we have become used to the practicalities of pandemic living, but in many ways it feels harder.
The sheer number of hospitalisations and deaths is alarmingly high and the new strain is adding another scary unknown into our daily consciousness.
Furthermore, the virus has been with us a long time now and the concept of getting back to a ‘normal’ life seems a distant hope, even with the vaccination rollout starting in earnest.
It’s clear that the health, social and economic fall out of restrictions and lockdowns are hitting children, families, frontline workers and isolated people with more force this time around.
Being trapped at home – while having it’s benefits, especially for the introverts amongst us – takes it’s toll. Whether we live alone, with flatmates or with family, we all share a human need for social connection and belonging. Since last March, when the Coronavirus spread across the world and many places went into lockdown, it’s been hard to maintain and nurture friendships and important social connections within our communities.
We intuitively know that meaningful social relationships are critical for our emotional wellbeing, but there is also a growing body of evidence that they positively impact health outcomes and longevity too.
As one early research study concluded:
“Social relationships, or the relative lack thereof, constitute a major risk factor for health – rivalling the effect of well established health risk factors such as cigarette smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, obesity and physical activity“.
~ House, Landis, and Umberson: Science, 1988.
Read that again! This and later studies found that relationships are more important for our health – not just our mental or emotional wellbeing – than giving up smoking and alcohol or reducing our weight. Mind blown!
This confirms to me how intertwined our mind and bodies are; that physical health is impacted by mental, emotional and spiritual health and vice versa.
Loneliness and lack of connection are also contributing factors in addiction. It’s a deep human need within us, and when it is lacking we turn to habits and substances that we hope will fill that hole, or at least numb the pain of it.
And I would guess that perfectionists have more than their fair share of numbing strategies in normal life, let alone deep within a pandemic.
So, what can we do to nurture our social relationships and human connections when we’re not allowed to meet up physically with anyone?
Make every social interaction count
Instead of being caught up in your own head, seek out any way of creating connection when you do go out into the world.
Strike up a conversation with the cashier at the petrol station, supermarket, or when you are making phone calls.
Go out of your way to say thank you and interact with delivery drivers, refuse collectors and neighbours.
Choose to make the interaction meaningful. Ask how they are, make a comment on how the weather/quietness/crazy covid times is affecting you/the world and bring some care and connection into their lives as they put their health at risk on the front line.
It will create a meaningful moment of connection that will benefit both of you.
Nourish existing relationships
At the beginning of Lockdown in March, many of us organised family chats or quiz nights on Zoom to keep connected. But if you are anything like my family and friendship groups, that has become less frequent.
So let’s get proactive again and make an effort to create more connection opportunities.
Make more phone calls and send more texts – especially to people who you know live on their own, or would appreciate knowing you are thinking of them.
We’ve got to let go of the fear that people don’t want to be bothered by us messaging them. YES THEY DO! We all long for more connection. It’s not just you.
Let’s create or be more active in WhatsApp groups to keep your social connections strong. Organise catch-up drinks on Zoom, or spend an hour or two creating a Friday Night Quiz.
You could even take your old notepaper out and write cards or letters to friends or family. Receiving personal post is so exciting because it’s so rare.
Nurture connection in your heart
We often think that connection is something you get when you are physically in the same space with someone. But that’s not true. Yes, deeper connection can happen in ‘real’ life, but you can also be in the same room as someone and feel incredibly lonely.
Connection is something that you feel in your heart and you can cultivate that whether you are with people physically or not.
Imagine writing a letter to someone and posting it. When do you start to feel connected to that person? When they say thank you for the letter? Two days later when you know they’ve received it?
Or do you – like me – start to feel connected when you are actually writing the letter, when you’ve sealed and posted it, days before they’ve even received it?
In these physically isolated times you can nurture this connection to distant family and friends by thinking of them, being grateful for them, savouring old memories, and planning future times with them.
Connection happens in your heart and you can cultivate that at any time.
Remind yourself are not alone
In tough times it’s helpful to remember that you are part of something bigger, a common humanity.
Your human suffering is by definition part of the life experience of all humans, and therefore you are not alone in the emotions you feel.
Knowing and acknowledging this can ease the sense of isolation lockdown might bring. It’s not just you; other people experience this too, and the probability is that many are feeling just like you in this moment.
Other ways to cultivate this wider connection can come from listening to the radio, watching a football game, wildlife documentary, or a soap opera on TV where you know that all around the country other people are doing the same.
I get that sense of connection when I watch Antiques Roadshow on a Sunday night – it connects me with people I don’t know all around the country, and also reminds me of my grandparents who would watch it every week. It’s a nice moment of loving connection to them, now they are no longer here.
And it’s not ‘real’ in the sense of they are here in the room with me. It’s simply me cultivating that feeling in my heart.
Join online events and connect
Since March I’ve been running a Resilience Café every Thursday morning where mums can come along and chat, get support and coaching and feel connected.
Some networking groups or local support groups for mothers have moved online too. During the first lockdown there were so many online conferences and summits that you could join to make and nurture social connections, and more are showing up every week. Have a search in a local or online directory to see if there is anything that interests you
Running The Resilience Café has been a lovely experience and something that I look forward to each week. Before I set it up, I was worried it would feel like a pressure or a chore to turn up every week and ‘be there’ for people who I didn’t know. Not to mention that nagging question: would anyone even show up?!
How wrong I was!! It’s been such a honour to share an hour a week with some amazing, inspiring, funny, strong women.
We laugh and share with each other every time and in those weeks when one of us is struggling, connection is forged in the vulnerability and understanding that evolves.
It’s incredibly powerful and really eases the loneliness that we might feel if we struggled alone.
It also gives us access to the resources inside of us when we feel supported by others.
If that sounds like something that could support you sign up to be sent the link to join us. We’d love to welcome you.
To be emailed the details for how to join us at The Resilience Café click here.