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9 Ways for Staying Connected and Socially Close While Physically Distancing

Social distancing is out! “Staying connected and socially close while physical distancing” is in! This puts the emphasis on a positive and healthy message.“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” ~ Goethe

Social distancing…I’ve come to dislike this term. I understand that physical distancing shows care for my neighbors during this pandemic. I want them to feel comfortably safe, when I encounter them at the store or elsewhere. That requires physical distancing, not social distancing. I don’t have to rush past them, never acknowledging their existence. Just making eye contact and smiling is important. After all, they may not see my smile behind my mask, but they’ll see it in my eyes.

Social distancing leads to unhealthy behavior. After all, being put in Isolation is how prisoners are punished to break their spirit, to break their will to live. And “cabin fever” causes real distress!

Instead let’s start saying “staying connected and socially close while physical distancing.” This puts the emphasis on a positive and healthy message to our brains. We may be apart, but we’re staying connected.

Staying connected doesn’t rely on physical closeness. It’s emotional and mental closeness. I like how Brené Brown defines connection:

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

We thrive on community. We need to feel seen, heard and valued. We need to matter. As you read those words, did a voice in your head say even a little bit, “No one is reaching out to me. I’m all alone.”

It’s not helpful to wait for someone to pick you up. They simply can’t do that for you. Only you can pick yourself up. Right now, all of us can use a pick-me-up. So, here are some suggestions to help you stay connected in meaningful ways…

  1. Let your mind wander back through your life and write in your journal the names of all the people who have shown you kindness, who have made a difference.

As you write each name, fully experience that moment and feel gratitude, feel the connection. Choose one name and call that person. Hear her voice. Remind her of how she made you feel special. Relive memories. Catch up with each other. Feel your connection growing stronger. Feel your energy returning.

  1. Open your journal and dream about who and where you want to be in five years.

Do a clean sweep and purge damaged or unused clothes. Develop a healthier sleep and nutrition routine; make your bed. Start dressing, talking and acting like you envision your future self. Start up-scaling your presence today. Catch negative thoughts and choose to speak positivity into your life. You’ll be amazed at how this draws people to you.

  1. Make new connections with people who keep you moving forward.

People around the world are so accessible through the Internet. If leaders who inspire you have a web presence, follow them, interact on their social sites, share their meaningful messages on your social sites and thank them. You can make a difference in their lives. They’re real people; they need encouragement too! Naturally let relationships form based on mutual respect and admiration.

A life-line for me has been the Great Circle Conversation. To meet every month with these empowering women fills me up and keeps me excited. You’re welcome to join us. (Note: Louise and I, together, but apart, initiated this conversation; we didn’t wait for it to happen.)

  1. Move your body like you love it.

When you love someone, you take care of them. This means being compassionate AND disciplined to require the best from them. Grant yourself the same gift of love. Get up and move! Tell yourself, “I know this is hard now, but one day it will feel so good I’m going to crave movement!” Become an accountability partner or buddy partner — make an agreement to keep each other motivated in-person 6-feet apart or with long-distance daily check-ins. 

  1. Become a Zoom or Skype expert.

Technology is part of our lives. Embrace it. People are staying connected and having dinner parties, weddings, and business conferences via these apps. It’s a perfect opportunity to practice your new leadership presence in front of the camera.

  1. Deepen your conversation skills, by asking questions and listening.

Superficial chit chat has its place, but it doesn’t forge strong connection. Talk about how you’re being changed individually and collectively, during this experience. It’s not fair to expect your family or roommate to pick up on subtle cues that so much togetherness is getting on your nerves. Have intentional conversations that communicate how all of you can survive this together, but with enough “alone” time.  

  1. Feel your feelings fully AND express them to a trusted confidant.

It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious and vulnerable. This is an opportunity to lean into those feelings and redefine what really matters to you. Your goals may be shifting. Grieve the changes, and remind yourself that you’re protecting the most vulnerable members of your community.

  1. Open up and welcome change.

Uncertainty makes us uncomfortable. We like to chart our next steps. This pandemic is giving us a lesson in flexibility and remaining open. Being forced to slow down, step back is a gift. It allows space for mindfulness, reflection and renewal. Review your rituals to see if they’re still serving you. Expand your circle and initiate more occasions for staying connected with your family, friends and community.

  1. Reach out to those who have lost more than you have.

I never want to minimize the suffering of those who have lost loved ones, homes, jobs or those who have sacrificed so much, like the health care professionals choosing to live apart from their families to keep them safe. These are the ones who would benefit most from us reaching out to support and wrap them into the warmth of our communities.

You don’t have to let the pandemic be THE feature story in your mind. Acknowledge it exists, take precautions and get on with staying connected with your community. If you’d like to pop over to Facebook and start a conversation with me there, I’d welcome it.

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” ~ William James

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