Plenty of words and phrases have come to dominate our vocabulary in the past few weeks and months. Social distancing; lock down; quarantine; isolation, shielding. And now it looks like it’s going to be a very long time before they slip away from our day to day dialogue.
It’s not difficult to understand what each word or phrase means practically. Social distancing means we have to stay 2 metres from other people. Self-quarantining means someone who might be infected staying separate from others. Being in isolation, sick people have to stay away from others.
But what do they mean in terms of our experience? What is it like to stay 2 metres away from everyone we meet in the supermarket or at work? What does it mean to stay right way from everyone else if we think we have Covid-19? What is the impact of having limited or no close contact with other people for weeks and months?
Each of us is different. Some need others around them all the time, feeling lonely without company. I am pretty comfortable in my own company. I can be contentedly alone for a long time but incredibly lonely in a group. Irrespective of our personal preferences, every single person needs good, mutual relationships and there is plenty of evidence that being socially connected makes us happier. We need touch too. There’s evidence it builds trust, reduces anxiety and stress, boosts the immune system and lowers blood pressure.
Against this backdrop, social distancing is bound to be having an impact, even amongst those of us who are perfectly content on our own.
We can’t visit our close friends and family. Unless we’re living with them, we can’t give the people we love a hug. They may be fewer than normal, but we do have options.
Reach out to friends and family. Tell them how you are, share your experiences. Voicing a feeling can ease it, it stops it from being overwhelming. Say you want a hug or that you’d love to be able to offer one. It’s not the same but when you’re hungry, a snack is better than nothing if a delicious dinner is not an option.
Spend time together
Get creative with the contact. Go to the cinema together. Pick a film on a streaming service, set up a video call on Zoom or What’s App and sit down at the same time to watch it together. Arrange an ‘online coffee’ with friends, have dinner online with family or play a virtual board game.
And if the WIFI isn’t great, have a chat on the good old fashioned telephone.
Make contact and smile
Make the most of the daily exercise and opportunity to make essential trips. Acknowledge the people you see. Give them a smile or a wave. You’re bound to get one back.
In the absence of a hug
Touch matters. Being hugged matters. In lieu of the real thing, hug your knees close to your chest, wrap your arms around yourself, wrap yourself up tightly in a blanket and think about the warmth of the hug you’re giving yourself.
Savour the moment
It might not seem like it at first glance but find something in the moment to really appreciate, to savour. It could be a really tasty meal, fresh breeze on your face or something as day-to-day as a refreshing shower. Notice it, relish it, tell someone about it.
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