In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the U.S., thousands of in-person gatherings are being canceled, including sporting events, parades, concerts, and church services. For many, the CDC recommendations on social distancing can start to feel isolating. People who have anxiety and depression can have their symptoms exacerbated, and people who are not normally depressed or anxious can start to feel disconnected and lonely.
However, there are ways to maintain community while still being responsible, according to Laura Schopp, professor and chair of the Department of Health Psychology in the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri.
“We can mitigate the effects of social distancing by reaching out to others in different ways,” Schopp said. “It is very empowering when everyone feels like they have a place to make a contribution.”
Dr. Schopp recommends these 5 tips for maintaining community while practicing social distancing.
1. Connect with others, virtually.
Call or video chat with family and friends. Connecting with others virtually can build a sense of community during a difficult time.
This includes virtual gaming, checking in with people through text messaging and hanging out in video group chats. People can consider using phone trees to check in on family members and to keep everyone posted on how they are doing. You can play board games using video chat or FaceTime, and you might want to consider a brief daily group call with a small group of friends to plan what you will do today in the event that you cannot get out. Just make sure that your conversations include non-virus-related topics, since it can be easy to focus on the virus and forget all the things that are going well.
2. Spend time in smaller groups.