Reconnecting After Social Distancing

Here are some tips to help you get back out there after months of isolation.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic forced people into months of sheltering in place, social isolation and loneliness were serious health concerns. A study in the journal Perspectives in Psychological Science found that loneliness can have the same effects on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Staying connected through social media can be beneficial and help you feel less alone, but it can never replace face-to-face human interaction.

Unfortunately, social distancing (avoiding contact with people who have or have been exposed to the coronavirus and staying 6 feet away from others when out in public) will remain the norm until a COVID-19 vaccine exists. Still, because loneliness and isolation can lead to depression, it’s important to stay as connected as possible as the pandemic continues.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Try some of these simple ways to remain socially involved and safe.

Get moving. Call up one or two friends you trust and go for a walk or hike. Not only will the companionship decrease stress and lift your spirits, being in nature boosts your mood.

Join a film or book club. Find a group that meets virtually or start one of your own.

Learn a new skill or hobby. In the early days of the pandemic, baking bread and sewing masks became wildly popular. If those aren’t for you, consider learning a musical instrument or new language. Take an online course from a college or university. Find opportunities that allow you to connect with others virtually.

Volunteer. If you feel safe enough to be in public, lend a helping hand in your community. Volunteer to deliver meals to children who may or may not be back at school. Sign up to organize donations at a local food bank. You will meet others with similar goals and values, and you will feel better helping others.

Walk the dog. If you have a dog, you have a built-in workout partner. If you don’t, see if your local animal shelter allows volunteers to take dogs for the afternoon or day to run, hike or just play outside.

However you choose to stay connected, be sure to follow safety guidelines. In addition to practicing social distancing, wear a mask when you are out in public. Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content, particularly after coming home from a public place, and avoid touching your face.