How to Check in on Others When You’re Physically Apart

While we’re physically distanced from one another, it pays to get a little creative with our interactions.

Drazen/ Getty Images
Drazen/ Getty Images

When many of us are still physically distancing from loved ones and coworkers, it can be more important than ever to check in with the people in our lives. But it’s also trickier to do so when we can’t be physically present with them. As we continue to adjust and adapt to our new ways of working and living, keeping tabs on one another in thoughtful ways is crucial — and totally doable with some creative approaches. 

We asked our Thrive community to share the small, thoughtful ways they’ve been checking in on other people during this time. Which of these will you try?

Start a Sunday night Zoom check-in

“It’s so important for our mental health to maintain connections to our loved ones and to create a sense of normalcy amidst so many unknowns. My girlfriends and I found a wonderful way to celebrate life and stay connected during this pandemic. We try to meet on Zoom each Sunday evening to review our week and to decompress after the kids are sleeping. A few of us are educators or essential workers that need a safe place to connect and destress. It’s always helpful to have friends that are willing to listen, care, and realize that we can uplift one another.”

—Tashelle Darby, mindset life and health coach, Philadelphia, PA

Write a handwritten letter

“I’ve been sending more letters during this time. I use an app called Fabriq to remind me when I haven’t checked in on someone in a while. Sending them a card with a personalized note has been a nice step beyond sending a text message. Someone did this for me near the beginning of the pandemic and it meant a lot, so I’ve been passing it forward.”

—Craig Inzana, content creator, Omaha, NE

Replace your typical “how are you?”

“A friend of mine had an unspeakable loss during the pandemic, and she requested that we not ask her, ‘How are you doing?’ since the answer to the question is always, ‘Terrible.’ I learned from this experience to ask instead, ‘What are you most proud of today?’  You may answer with a small victory like, ‘I got out of my pajamas before 10:00 am,’  Or ‘I went for a walk.’  It’s a thoughtful question that helps people open up about their struggles with one foot forward.”

—Donna Peters, podcast host, career coach, Atlanta, GA

Designate a “need a boost” emoji

“Amongst our group of  friends, we’ve developed a quick symbol for help when we need a boost: the parachute emoji. When one of us is particularly struggling that week, we send the emoji to our WhatsApp group, and everyone sends love and support. It’s helped us learn to ask for help when we don’t necessarily want to talk about it, and it’s helped us be better at telling each other how wonderful we are.”

—Jen Thorpe, feminist writer, South Africa

Create a virtual ritual as a family

“Shortly after the pandemic started, I noticed that my 79-year-old mother sounded depressed each time we spoke on the phone. I reached out to my sister and we made a pact to have weekly video calls where the focus would be on our mother and positivity. We also encouraged my mom to write down one thing that went well each day in a single sentence. In the beginning, she could not find anything to write, but as she tried it, the ritual became a much welcome habit. Between our weekly calls, her daily journaling, and making a point to go outside, we noticed a difference in our mom’s mindset. Nowadays when we have our weekly calls, she is fully engaged, solution-oriented, and has a visible awareness that she is loved.”

—Aycha Williams, health and wellness coach, Orlando, FL

Send around a “question of the week”

“I send a ‘question of the week’ via text to family and a few friend groups every Wednesday morning. Sometimes, it’s a silly question, like ‘What would your pirate name be?’ And sometimes it doesn’t even require words, like ‘Which emoji sums up how you’re feeling?’ Not everyone answers every week, but it’s a very low risk way to reach out to people without asking for another Zoom meeting. It’s been working for months now!”

—Wendy Fisher, leadership development, Tyngsboro, MA

Hold virtual lunch dates

“I’ve been checking in with others by hosting weekly lunchtime coworker parties where I invite women in my network to come together to breathe, meditate, and learn how to be more effective in our work. We share what’s going on in our own lives, how we’re feeling, and what we want to get out of our time together. Sometimes, we talk about finishing a certain proposal, working on a website, or writing a blog post — but knowing you’re fully supported by other people makes the world of a difference.”

—MiMi Dabo, business and money mindset coach, Washington, DC

Send a “thinking of you” text

“When it comes to checking in with loved ones, I find texting works best, just to say hello and that I am thinking about you.  I do not pry but let them respond in the way they need to. The simple gesture of reaching out seems to be enough without asking personal questions. I tell them how I’m feeling, listen to what they think, and even ask about how they’re reaching out to others. I like to learn some new ways that others are communicating with their family and friends.”

—Jill Shanks, researcher and writer, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Send a monthly postcard

“I’ve been sending my Nana a monthly postcard with a photo on it. She is hard of hearing so it’s difficult to speak to her on the phone. Sending a postcard has been a great way to send her photos of the family, local scenery, or a copy of a picture she likes and can frame. It has also allowed me to write her little notes to keep her spirits up and hopefully put a smile on her face during such difficult and confusing times.”

—Lorna Smith, confidence and mindset coach, West Sussex, UK

How are you checking in with people right now? Share your ideas with us in the comments!

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