Self-Care Can and Should Include Others
Before COVID-19, socializing and self-care were placed in separate realms of our psyche. We socialized when we went out to bars, concerts, events, meet-ups, dates, and bottomless brunches. We self-cared at home, remaining unrecognizable under an Aztec clay mask, throwing a bath bomb into our tub while being lulled into a euphoric state by Sade.
Now, these worlds collide in a phenomenon known as quarantine socializing. Why is socializing a key puzzle piece in our masterful self-care routine? Why are celebrities, who seemed to have so much more than us, flooding our feeds with real-talk live videos. Why are apps like Zoom, Hangout, House Party, and Netflix Party seeing unprecedented spikes? Why does my phone keep ringing with Facetime calls from friends who once hated the thought of talking on the phone?
The answer. We need connection in our life.
A social recession was probably the first tangible effect of COVID. In the blink of an eye, we found ourselves in a world devoid of hugs, brunch plans, baseball games, and gyms. We now spend our time on Zoom Happy Hours with friends and family we never spoke to before all of this and even yearn for the once pointless water-cooler small talk with our coworkers.
Julianne Hold-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, explained to The Guardian, “Loneliness increases earlier death by 26%, social isolation by 29% and living alone by 32%. We also have evidence that this is linked to cardiovascular function like blood pressure, heart rate, circulating stress hormones. It’s been linked to even cellular aging.” So, yes, in case you were wondering, socializing is important for our health. It’s easy to see life and people as parts of a separate reality when you’re stuck at home, one that you’re not a part of, but there are ways to adjust to the new normal, this ceaseless future of uncertainty.
1. Practice Empathy. It’s Powerful and Empowering.
Tap into this idea of collective empathy. Joan Halifax, a Buddhist roshi, expounds in her TEDWomen 2010 talk. “when [we] are in the presence of suffering, [empathetic people] feel that suffering a lot more than many other people do. Many of us think that compassion drains us, but I promise you it is something that truly enlivens us.”
Look for ways to offer support to your community, whether that means dropping off groceries, or even checking in with a friend to see how they’re doing. Realize that many of us are in this together and managing similar circumstances; what better foundation to start trying to build these deeper connections?
2. Use Technology as a Tool to Build Deeper Connections
We are fortunate to have an arsenal of technology to combat the social recession. Don’t underestimate the value of a fleeting, instantaneous nudge to your friends and family. Not every act has to be a grand discourse about your love life on Facetime; a quick text, Bitmoji, Snapchat, TikTok video or funny selfie are more than enough to stoke the fires of any relationship. Jump on an informal Zoom or Hangout while you run errands or finish chores. Sometimes just sharing a space without the pressure of needing to keep up a constant, stimulating conversation is nourishing – real hangouts naturally have lulls and peaks. Don’t forget to invest time into 1:1 conversations too. Oftentimes, the deeper conversations allow you to truly explore how you feel and get support through times like these.
3. It’s ok to not be ok. You’re not alone.
Mental health is especially important right now. While this quarantine feels like it may never end, it will, and we’ll all emerge with a new sense of gratitude and appreciation for connection. In the meantime, do what you can to get out of your house, or apartment and see others – even if it’s from a safe distance. Confide in a friend, family member, or professional and be honest about how you are feeling. Chances are you’ll be surprised how many other people feel exactly like you right now.