October 21, 2020
In 2020, a whole new phrase has entered our collective vocabulary: “social distancing.” Due to the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the past several months have dramatically altered many aspects of our daily lives: tables spread apart in restaurants, limited capacity in stores, and a temporary halt to live events and large gatherings.
While those signs of social distancing are most obvious, there is a toll that weighs heavily even without a daily reminder: being apart from some of our loved ones.
If you have family members susceptible to COVID-19 — whether it’s because they are older, have a comorbidity, or live so far away that travel during the pandemic isn’t practical — it may now be months since you’ve had the opportunity to see them. Fortunately, there are ways to keep in touch during this period of social distancing.
While many of us already feel like we spend the whole day video conferencing for school or work, technology offers an amazing way to keep in touch. Seeing another person’s face while speaking makes both parties feel more connected to each other. Visual cues and body language are important in communication, and at a time where it’s reasonable to have concern for your loved ones, seeing them can help put everyone’s anxieties at ease.
Make your presence known in a more analog way: send your loved ones something. Delivery services have rapidly grown during COVID-19, which means virtually anything — from flowers to food to books — are available for you to order and send to family members. You could even combine this old-school approach with technology, and coordinate a remote cooking night with common ingredients, or play the same game socially-distanced over video.
Of course, being socially distant does still allow for some in-person interactions. If your loved ones are within driving distance, you may have the option to safely meet face-to-face if everyone feels comfortable and follows state and city guidelines. With foliage changing colors in Pennsylvania, a socially-distant hike in one of the many parks around Philadelphia is great exercise and follows social distancing guidelines. Small picnics, gathering on a deck or in the backyard, and other small outdoor activities can be done while keeping everyone six feet apart (and wearing their masks!).
A final tip: be spontaneous and show you care. The activities above are great, but require coordination and planning. At a time of isolation, there’s nothing like receiving an unexpected phone call or text message from a loved one to brighten your day — pick up the phone, check in, and stay in touch with people to ensure they’re doing well.
These efforts are healthy both for you and your loved ones. Social distancing, if it becomes isolation, can have negative effects on both your mental and physical health: anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Even though we’re doing things differently, keeping in touch can keep you upbeat and positive as you and your family work toward the day when life returns to something a little bit more “normal.”