Social disconnection is very real this holiday season, as we round out a full nine months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Recent studies have shown that due to COVID-19, there have been increases not only in isolation measures like social distancing, but also widespread increases in anxiety, loneliness, and insomnia. Remember that the loneliness, grief, and feeling of a loss of normalcy you’re experiencing are real. It’s also important to remember the communities — whether developed in 2020 or before — that are here for you.
Personally, identifying a couple of friends and family members that I can talk to often or safely visit has been crucial to my mental health and sense of belonging this year. I’ve been able to strengthen relationships with friends and family through weekly check-ins, sharing new recipes, and playlists of my favorite songs of the year. For instance, I have learned more about my 82-year-old great-grandmother through helping her shop for groceries, showing her how to use her wireless printer, and a few other house tasks. I’ve also gotten to know my aunt, a hairstylist, through virtual check-ins and monthly hair dye appointments.
A social support network or community of folks you can reach out to towards the closing of this year is crucial. As we head into the frosty holiday season, it’s important to consider a few strategies and activities that may help you in staying in touch with your community. For instance, you can:
- Host a virtual holiday or end-of-the-year party
- Host a virtual watch party highlighting your favorite television series or holiday movie
- Host an indoor plant growing contest and see whose has grown the largest by the end of the year
- Host a virtual book club
- Host a virtual scavenger hunt where players scramble to find items or fulfill challenges before time runs out
- Lead routine group chat check-ins and calls with friends and family
- Conduct a virtual vision-board party with friends and family to prepare for the new year
- Compile popular family or friends recipes to develop and disperse a cookbook
- Develop a family or friends penpal list
- Challenge friends or family to create and share playlists of their top tunes of the year
- Develop a running list of podcasts to share with family and friends
- Document any experiences of gratitude during the year and virtually share them with family and friends
- Call a friend while on a virtual walk or hike
- Try out online multiplayer games like Among Us
- Identify apps that support networking and new friendships
- If applicable, seek out mental health services
While not exhaustive, this list should serve as a jumpstart (or holiday challenge!) that supports you in rediscovering what kept you connected pre-COVID.
Remember, while it’s important to find time to rest and unplug, it’s equally important to seek out new and existing communities and virtual activities that will support you in navigating the end of the year and beyond. Everyone deserves to have a community, in-person, or virtual, where they feel like they belong.