Physical Distancing + Social Connection

In these uncertain times, we are all being told to undertake social distancing, work from home, self-isolate, cancel events, and reconsider any social gatherings. But now more than ever, we are needing the support of friends and family and continued connection with our community. I challenge the term ‘social distancing’ and instead support the concept of ‘physical distancing + social connection’.

As anxiety levels increase and people are panic buying (please stop it!), it can be difficult not to get caught up in the fear that is spreading. Most of us are carrying hand sanitiser, pushing doors open with our hips, and paying for our coffee with PayWave to avoid touching buttons on EFTPOS machines. We have paused gym memberships, cancelled piano lessons, and are dosing up on Vitamin C. Slow cookers are getting a work-out and freezers are filling up around the nation.

But the one thing that is impacting us the most is the loss of human connection and our sense of community engagement. Working from home has thrown many people into an unwanted sense of isolation and they may be struggling to cope with the loneliness and disconnection they are feeling.

We need kindness. We need connection. We need to support each other and strengthen our sense of community. We need to look out for those who are vulnerable and take steps to let them know we are here for them. It’s time to calm the rising fear, and allay our anxieties.

We are seeing beautiful examples of this around the world; people in Italy standing on their balconies and joining together in song, on-line choirs and dance parties, virtual book clubs, and gym instructors streaming at-home fitness classes.

At a local level there is a lot more we can do too.

If you are working remotely:

  • Organise a team check-in every morning. Find out how everyone is feeling and encourage everyone to share their emotions, frustrations, or concerns, and work together to put forward ideas that can make a difference.

  • Put a bit of fun in your day. Many café’s are offering contactless deliveries for your morning tea break. Schedule these to coincide with your other team members and share the NZ Herald daily quiz. Work on it at the same time using a team meeting app like Skype or Zoom and see how many correct answers everyone can get.

If you are missing the company of friends and family:

  • Call them. See how they are coping and stay in regular contact.

  • Set up a WhatsApp group and share photos and silly videos.

  • Set up an online challenge (a friend and I are planning to watch @massimobottura #KitchenQuarantine. We’ll follow his daily recipe tutorials and share our attempts with each other – and our families!)

  • Meet up at someone’s house whilst adhering to the MOH guidelines – BYO garden chair, snacks, and drinks, and strategically place yourselves in a circle.

If you are worried about your community members:

  • Join one of the many local Facebook community groups that are popping up for just this reason. Let people know that you can help with cooking, food or prescription deliveries, whatever it may be.

  • Check in on your neighbours.

But more importantly, remember to keep things in perspective. Don’t catastrophise. Avoid being drawn into the endless stream of media reporting about COVID-19. Limit your news to reputable sources, and check in at set times – say 1:00pm and 6:00 pm. Limit your social media scrolling and don't believe everything you read.

Practice kindness.

And if you or anyone you know needs support: For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, call or text the free 'Need to talk?' service on 1737. This is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for you to talk things through with a trained counsellor.

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