Before the current pandemic, I have to admit that I would have welcomed the idea of social distancing with open arms. I live in NYC so the one thing I was getting plenty of is people. Typically, when I had the opportunity to get our of the city, I would choose places that have two things -- access to nature and very few people.
One evening this week, I visited my local grocery store. It's the one thing that can bring unexpected joy and I'm so grateful to be able to make these infrequent trips during this time. The environment at the store was less than joyful -- I could see the fear on the faces of my fellow shoppers and the heroic store workers. I felt for others and knew they felt for me in mutual despair caused by things being so unknown and so different than before.
Social distancing is not just a rule, it's become a lonely feeling for all of us. That being said, we cannot let the physical distance we have placed between each other become a barrier to empathy for one another. I remind myself daily that my fear cannot overcome my desire for good.
Now that there is an actual term, rule, and practice for social distancing, I'm suddenly struck with a real sense of loneliness from this separation from loved ones and strangers alike. Here are six easy ways to bridge the gap emotionally during this difficult time.
SOCIAL DISTANCING TIP #1: FIND HOW WORK CAN WORK
My company has made many shifts over the past weeks to facilitate the timely delivery of our self-care solutions. Our core ingredient is salt, which is not only naturally therapeutic but also anti-bacterial. Our products offer the benefit of at-home self-care to so many out there looking for healthy solutions to take them through this troubling time with a healthy body and mind.
At Pursoma, we have spread out, quarantined from one another in our workspaces, moved some to work from home while others in operations moved to shift hours at our facility to minimize physical interaction. As our female-run company remains fully operational, it is important to me that we remain that way while we keep our spirits high so long as we can do our jobs safely and effectively.
I would advise anyone who is running a small business now to focus on what'ss thriving -- go after that and keep team morale high. Encourage your team to remain positive and healthy. Remind each team member to take measures at home to keep their immunity strong and their minds clear daily. Additionally, there are many ways the US government is supporting small businesses right now, and it's important as the leader of your company to accept this help, as it will enable all of us to get through this hard time and be able to maintain our communities in and outside of work.
SOCIAL DISTANCING TIP #2 KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY
Back at home, my family stays isolated from friends and visitors. We have shifted birthdays, playdates, and meetings to remote, digital alternatives. For us, this is not so dissimilar to our norm, because we have always had dinners, holidays, birthdays at home to make our family feel more tight-knit. I'm grateful to have these practices in place and hope those other families out there can see the value in making these gatherings special and sacred to your core family members. The only difference with our celebrations now is that there is just no guest list so if you have children, you have to be creative. When we recently had a birthday in the house, it took more planning and extra days to gather what we needed just for a cake and meal. This type of planning has reoriented us all back to a slower more thoughtful time in history where everything wasn't readily available via Alexa.
My daughter is only four and she tells us the “cyrus” is boring and we try to make concessions for her by all playing with her more. We filling this new time with activities we used to do before we all have cell phones. For Easter celebrations, I am currently working on a plan to find a family member to volunteer to dress up as the Easter bunny (any takers out there?).
SOCIAL DISTANCING TIP #3 MAKE THE CALL
In all seriousness, not having the flexibility to see extended family or even not having the opportunity to be together is very hard. For those alone in isolation, it's all the more difficult. I am so grateful to have my family by my side and encourage anyone in isolation to reach out to friends, family, and neighbors through the means that they have. You will more than likely be making their day better in doing so. We are all in the same boat and ready to connect.
After my last trip to the store, I feel the best way to socialize is by phone. Many matured generations can look back fondly on hours spent gabbing on the phone to our best friends and close family. Is there someone you know out there who you haven't spoken to in a while? Maybe it's someone you don't know too well such as a neighbor or acquaintance. The modern rules of social etiquette are off -- make the connection now without hesitation.
SOCIAL DISTANCING TIP #4 HAVE YOU TRIED THIS APP?
While many workers out there are now familiarized with Zoom and Google Hangouts, families and friends are looking for ways to connect regularly as well. Group texts and IG comments are lovely but offer little emotional connection most of the time. We recently discovered Houseparty as a way to connect as a group via video chat. This app offers several solutions for groups looking to bridge the gap of awkward silences and differences of opinions by integrating fun games for the participants to play together so you can spend more time casually socializing and less time recapping the negative news cycle to each other.
SOCIAL DISTANCING TIP #5 MAKE A PEN PAL
While I love my phone calls, I have recently made a new commitment to writing more letters. I have made an initial list of letters I am going to send to all of my friends and family that are spread out over the world. Withing each of them, I'm using the writing prompt, "This is what I like about you,“. It's just a small note, in a small envelope that is easily sanitized. You can order stamps online and order beautiful stationery.
By putting my words down and sending that emotion in a handwritten letter I hope that distance between us will diminish, the memories will be vivid, and the hope of tomorrow will be felt.
SOCIAL DISTANCING TIP #6 GO INWARD
This is unchartered waters for those that live alone. Many people that live alone depend on work and social activities to interact with people, but now with the stay-at-home orders in place, the isolation can be something we have never experienced before.
Tech hacks for socializing in new ways aside, this is a new opportunity for us all to focus on our relationships with ourselves. We can access this relationship through journaling, painting, and sitting in meditation. Many of us never take the opportunity of time to read a new book. I have devoured as many books in the last month that I read in total last year.
The days are long and nights are quiet. If you must sit in solitude, make sure that the words and thoughts you bring with you are uplifting. I have been reading Gabrielle Bernstein and Thoreau -- the former focuses on spiritual health while the latter writes about quiet isolation.
"There is no value in life except what you chose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself."
-Henry David Thoreau
This is a time like no other for us to reflect with ourselves, re-engage with others, and realize that we had it so good. And one day I hope that we take these realizations back into our "normal" lives so that we can be more gentle and caring with each other and ourselves.