March wasn’t that hard. We all have so much hustle and bustle in our lives, so many obligations and demands. It was nice to have a “break.” “The gift of time” as they say, for those of us who are not essential workers and were fortunate enough to be home. We tried to stay positive, catch up on netflix and work on all sorts of “quarantine projects” ranging from making banana bread to writing books. But now it is almost August. We are being told it is going to get worse before it gets better. There is no end in sight.
There are a lot of difficult choices to be made with regard to school, work, seeing family, and more. And there are no right answers. I personally hit a low point in June. For the whole month. At the beginning of the month my TEDx talk was released that I taped during the pandemic. It is all about overcoming change and being resilient. I have overcome a lot and try my best to maintain a positive outlook and put everything in perspective. But here I was on my couch not showering for days having to admit to myself I couldn’t muster up my resiliency.
Here is what I realized: Social Isolation is not something you can or should maintain long term. Everyone needs to make their own decisions based on their health, risk level and households. But I’ll share what worked for me.
- Meet people. In person. I say this even though my husband and I are both immuno compromised. We have not eaten out or gone to any social gatherings. But I finally had one girlfriend over outside on our patio for a socially distanced and masked visit. And I met another girlfriend at 8 AM on a weekday at a local outdoor cafe for coffee where we were the only ones there. And I can’t believe what a difference it made in my mental outlook. It is not risk free and was not without stress. But it was necessary. We are all “zoomed” out at this point. See a friend.
- Find a new (or renewed) outdoor hobby. I am one of those strange people that hate Summer and warm weather. But we need to be outside and we can do it relatively safely. I used to play tennis when I was younger and I started taking weekly outdoor lessons a few weeks ago. My indoor boxing studio was finally able to set up an outdoor class and I went. It was great to be out there and see my classmates I am used to seeing multiple times a week for years but haven’t seen for months. I can’t tell you how great it has been to have something to look forward to and start to see some progress towards a goal as well.
- Talk to strangers. I teach networking so I love to strike up conversations with anyone. Everyone is behind masks and most of us are just trying to do what we need to do quickly while we are out and leave. No one smiles (or you can’t see their smiles) or makes eye contact anymore. Make an effort to interact with someone new when you are out even if its just asking the person at your grocery checkout how they are doing. It will be good for you and good for them.
I recognize there are people going through a lot worse things than social isolation right now such as covid recovery and financial stressors but taking steps to prevent social isolation is something you can control and the ripple effects are huge in other areas of your life and for your mental outlook.
How will you interact with someone? Make a (safe) plan. I would love to hear about it.
Jennifer Lynn Robinson, Esquire of Purposeful Networking is a consultant and speaker. You can reach her at [email protected] or @areyounetworked.