As humans, we are hardwired to connect; we are drawn to “doing life together” — talking through our issues; learning from each other; being encouraged, corrected and motivated by those around us. We want to be in the company of friends or family and share our lives with them. However, this is the
time of social isolation for a greater cause. Now is not the time to have little or no meaningful connection in your life. To get through the COVID-19 pandemic, we need a connection culture that is rich in relational connection while maintaining physical distance between individuals when there is a risk of transmission. It’s important to understand that connection is essential because, insufficient connection has a wide-ranging impact on our bodies, including increasing the negative effects of stress and diminishing resilience.
Here are practical actions you can take to cultivate a optimistic mindset.
I. Take care of yourself
We do this by making sure we are connecting with people who energize us. Each day, schedule phone calls or video calls online with people you enjoy. Take virtual coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon while connecting on a video call. Schedule a call each evening with relatives and friends who may need connection. This is a good time to take the initiative and reconnect with friends from your childhood or college days who you may have lost touch with over the years.
- Play Music. Throughout the day, play music you enjoy. Music has been found to calm anxiety.
- Learn something new. Boredom is one risk of being physically isolated. So learn a new skill or a childhood interest.
- Set aside time each day for a quiet period. This may include contemplation, meditation, prayer and/or journaling.
- Pause to be grateful. Every day, take a few minutes to write down at least three things you are grateful for. Gratitude helps keep you emotionally strong and will help you connect better with others.
II. Never worry alone!
Whenever you feel anxious or stressed, call up a friend and talk it through. Doing this will move your brain activity from the amygdala where threats are processed to the cortex where we make rational decisions.
III. Cultivate practices that produce contentment and avoid excitatory practices.
Constantly checking your smartphone, email or
social media stimulates the production of dopamine, an excitatory
neurotransmitter that in excessive amounts makes us anxious. Do one task at a time rather than multitasking.It’s preferable to focus on practices that produce the positive emotion of contentment because they stimulate the production of neurotransmitters including serotonin.
IV. Serve others.
Reaching out to help others in need boosts neurochemicals that produce positive emotions. In the current climate of encouraging physical separation, this may include writing a card or letter to an isolated elderly parent, relative or friend, or calling to find out how he or she is doing.
Check out local or national nonprofit organizations that serve populations in need and see how you can help safely.Anything you can do to help others meet their need for connection also helps you. There is satisfaction, even joy, to be found in serving a cause greater than self.
This unusual season we are in is temporary. Still, it will be difficult and last longer than we’d like it to. We will face individual and societal challenges that we have not faced before. It’s important that you recognize that disconnection is a super-stressor; it makes other stressors feel even heavier and it weakens the effectiveness of any resiliency practices you may be using.
By intentionally boosting our “superpower” of connection while still maintaining physical separation, we will make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. We will lift our own spirits as we lift the spirits of our family members, friends and community. In harnessing the power of connection as we combat COVID-19, we will be combating the epidemic of loneliness, as well.