Surviving Self-Isolation

How to Stay Sane During Social Distancing

A pat on the back, a caress of the arm—these are everyday gestures that we take for granted. Touch is truly fundamental to communication, bonding, and health.  It provides its own language of compassion, a language essential to what it means to be human. 

Even before social distancing because of COVID-19, Western cultures have been pretty touch-deprived.  One example is a study from the 1960s by psychologist Sidney Jourard, who studied the interaction of friends in different parts of the world. He observed them for the same amount of time in each culture.  In England, two friends touched zero times. In the United States, two friends touched twice.  But in France, the number shot up to 110 times. And in Puerto Rico, those friends touched 180 times!

Of course, during a pandemic there is some life-saving reasons people are keeping their hands to themselves. But the question remains, how do we survive self-isolation? What can we do to stay sane? I joke with my big family (mom to six kids), that there are too many people in my house to be socially distant. I realize that in many households this is not the case.  A friend reached out to me this week saying she is spending 90% of her day totally alone and it’s making her crazy. We’re wired to connect with other people. To deny that is to deprive ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys and deepest comforts. 

Phone calls and video chatting are great supplemental forms of human connection.  During a near-quarantine, friends and family across the world are basically just as easy to stay in touch with as someone who lives a mile away.  Many long-distance families or couples rely on connecting this way.  It allows them to spend time together as they might if they lived in the same space.  Video activities you can do together while apart include playing music, singing, watching movies, drinking coffee, having a meal, reading a story, working out… Be as creative as you want to be.  Let’s be thankful we live in a time where technology can connect us.  Think back to the days of the wild west when family members would leave on covered wagons never to see each other again.  Even letters would have been few and far between. 

Community shows up to support each other.  That support takes a variety of forms. It’s tangible—an offer to drop off some extra food at a friend’s house if needed. It’s informational—a response to a concerned friend’s advice-seeking about how to handle some aspect of life during a pandemic.  Even emotional—a check-in to see how a friend is weathering it all. Just perceiving that support is available, if needed, can be go a long way to comfort each other.  Technology can’t replace touch, but it can sure ease isolation. Check on somebody today.  You never know what a difference it might make.

Our hearts go out to those that have birthdays and anniversaries during a pandemic. We decided to get creative and help our daughter and son-in-law celebrate their quarantined two year wedding anniversary.

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