Finding Connection in Lockdown
We’re more than a month into quarantine here in Ireland, and thus have observed major shifts in our lives. Not only is our physical health threatened, but we are experiencing greater social restrictions than ever before and unable to closely interact with others outside of our home. Of course this includes valued loved ones, like friends and family – whether near or far – but we are also likely feeling a sense of longing for interaction with people we don’t know so well; co-workers we don’t often talk to, the waiter at our favourite restaurant, the lady we sit next to in church. Where does this longing come from?
Whether you find yourself surrounded by loved ones or alone in this current pandemic, let’s not forget that we are all social creatures as humans. As such, our relationships with others serve as a primary foundation for our mental health and resilience. The relationships we develop deeply matter to our wellness. Although we are socially distant, that doesn’t mean we need to be emotionally distant. Emotional connection is a necessary fuel for our wellbeing, especially during times of uncertainty and stress. The tips below are designed to focus on ways we can connect with loved ones – near and far – while still maintaining safe distance practices to help protect the rest of the planet.
Empathy is a cornerstone of connection, because it allows us to see the world through another’s perspective so that we can develop a shared experience together. Being empathetic isn’t about feeling sorry for someone who’s going through a difficult time, rather it is about putting yourself in their shoes to get a sense of what that difficulty feels like to them. Whether in person or over the phone, empathy is all about improving understanding between individuals. You don’t require deep conversations to practice this skill – it can naturally arise from a simple chat. Empathy goes hand-in-hand with curiosity and acceptance – so you can enhance your own empathetic abilities by being curious about other’s experience and accepting their experience as valid.
Remember that you are an active agent in all of your relationships. Our sense of connection is not only enhanced when others reach out to us or respond to our messages, but also when we reach out to others and take time to respond. Connection is a constant effort required by all parties to maintain heartfelt connection. Participate in your relationships with intention and reciprocity – go into interactions ready to be emotionally available, ready to put in the time and effort required to build lasting relationships. Sometimes a simple text or response can make all the difference towards your sense of connection.
Connection doesn’t just magically happen when we talk to someone. True connection requires giving and taking, and sometimes it’s important to consider how interacting with certain individuals leaves us feeling afterwards. It isn’t realistic to say you won’t ever make judgments towards others; judgments can be very important for keeping you safe and establishing boundaries. But try to ensure that any judgments made reflect on how you feel about the interaction with the person vs. who you believe the person is. Try not to let your needs, expectations and assumptions influence how you view a person. For instance, we may love a family member to bits, but feel exhausted and distressed after a prolonged conversation with them. That’s okay. Making fair judgment isn’t about determining someone’s character – it’s about determining what type of behaviour we are willing to tolerate. Use discernment in your judgments to improve how you manage interactions with others while at a distance.
Compassion & Common Humanity
The world you live in is intricately connected to the rest of humanity. Even though we might not know our neighbours, we’re still experiencing similar situations to them right now, as well as a sharing this experience with humans from countries all over the globe. We all have joys, loves and fears in our lives. Just as all humans are suffering in their own ways, they also deserve safety and kindness in their lives. We all have the capacity to offer kindness towards all individuals, even if we disagree with, dislike or don’t know them. Kindness is free and simple – sometimes just a simple smile towards someone on the street can have the power to turn around their entire day. Connecting through kindness allows us to access the goodness in every individual we encounter. Be kind to the people near you and to the people far away, because we are all in this together.
Finding ways to stay connected can be the one of the biggest ways to maintain resilience in current times. Connection doesn’t require physical contact – there are many ways that we can stay connected with others from right where we are. How do you plan to make contact with someone today?