In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, human interaction has taken a back seat while we work relentlessly to stop the spread. We have traded hugs for elbow taps and swapped social gatherings for group chats – not quite the same, but necessary. While some may be growing restless over the lack of human connection, others might experience loneliness in another form or fashion. With so many things to focus on these days, it’s important to take it back to the basics and acknowledge our fundamental need for interaction. Today, we will explore our humanistic need to connect, why the quality of those connections matter, and what are some safe ways to connect during these times
Why do we Need Each Other?
Regardless of social stance or categorization, all humans require connection (I’m looking at you, fellow introvert!) Studies show that our ancestors formed relationships with one another to ensure protection from predators and to aid one another in search of resources. Over the course of decades and centuries, evolutionary psychology pointed out that our nervous system is consistently on the lookout for protection and connection. To this day, relationships remain a fundamental – or rather, primal – need of every human on this earth. Science has confirmed that human connection is imperative to our emotional intelligence, while consistent loneliness negatively impacts our health. I’m no expert, but for something to significantly impact your physical, emotional, and relational being with such force must be rather important!
Quality vs. Quantity: Relationships that Help Us
Not all relationships are created equal; an extrovert may still feel a sense of loneliness despite hanging out with their friends all day. Remember what I said about emotional intelligence? In order for the “connect” part of human connection to take place, we must adopt a positive reaction to the emotional, cognitive, and even spiritual connections we encounter. Some may call these life-giving responses, where your energy tank is at full capacity after an interaction. Some positive reactions include happiness (that’s a given), self-awareness, and a sense of purpose. On the other hand, negative reactions to emotional/cognitive/spiritual connections can leave us subject to loneliness: feelings of distrust, miscommunication, and conflict are common social reactions to negative connections. With science and psychology backing us up on the importance of human connection, it makes perfect sense to spend more time on the quality of our interactions rather than the quantity.
Finding Ways to Connect During COVID-19
ow do we increase human interaction in trying times? We get creative. We put in the effort to maintain those high-quality relationships. We acknowledge our need for positive, life-giving interactions so we can thrive. Still coming up short? Take a look at these suggestions below and find what’s right for you!
Get outside: Here in Southern Ontario, several parks, patios, farmers markets and beaches are opening. If you’re keen on something that requires the most effort, ask someone to take a hike (literally) or meet for coffee on the patio.
Hop on a video call: Not in the right headspace to adventure outside? A video call is a simple way to connect both audibly and visually. There is great opportunity here to get creative; find a recipe that you and your friend can make together on video or arrange a coffee date with your family. Even some online streaming services have the option to watch movies as a group. Whatever suits your fancy!
Explore your interests: If you’re in the mood to meet more like-minded people, the internet has lots in store for you. Many clubs and organizations have hit the virtual world due to COVID-19 shutdowns, making it very easy and a little less pressing to mingle with a new group. Whether it’s a religious gathering, a social justice group, or a guilty-pleasure soap opera fan club (we won’t judge), the opportunity to create new quality human connections is right at your fingertips.
Despite the abundance of quality connections, some of us experience loneliness in spite of our surroundings. Reach out to your doctor if COVID-19 has impacted your mental health.
If you're looking for a new professional to connect with you can reach out to any of the skilled clinicians at York Wellness. You can connect with us today by browsing our team of clinicians and getting in touch with someone who meets your unique needs.
We can all share the collective experience of living in a state if uncertainty as we try to process and work through the realities associated with COVID-19. While we are all united and share this experience globally, there are differences in how we individually cope with the impact on ourselves and loved ones around us.
In this video, Alka Chopra (RD) and I collaborated to discuss a very primal emotion that often does not get discussed, or unpacked: Anxiety. The purpose of this casual dialogue was to unpack and normalize this emotion, and also to discuss helpful and unhelpful strategies to cope.
Thanks for watching - Ingie Mehmet-Rowlands.
Victoria Freeman (MSW, RSW & Founder of York Wellness) paired up with NEDIC (The National Eating Disorder Information Centre of Canada) share some tips for their #CopingwithCovid19 youtube series. Check out the video & worksheet!
Check out the adapted handout below!