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Building Bridges: Strategies for Connection in a Pandemic

Maintaining connections during Covid-19

Strategies

  1. What are some strategies for maintaining connections with others during this pandemic?

This pandemic has been incredibly hard on most people (thought not everyone, despite what the media would lead us to believe). As a therapist, one of the most common struggles I am seeing people go through is staying away from friends and family. The way I see Covid-19 distancing is kind of like a spectrum. Meaning, some people have been staying in their houses and having very little contact with people, while others have been living their lives as usual, and everything in between. This difference in reactions is coming from many different places, and not everyone can see all the different thought processes, leading people to isolate themselves from some but not all. This has lead to struggles in friendships, especially for people who have trouble with assertive communication. I know the question is asking about strategies to maintain connections, however I think that a big part of maintaining connections is understanding why you will be unable to maintain connections with many of the people you are used to having those connections with. I am going to break this down by 3 main categories (despite this being a spectrum), and then give tips at the end of each category for how those types of people can connect to one another.

– Nonchalant/Laissez-faire

If you are in this category (or know people in this category- which I believe all of us do) it is most likely due to a few different reasons.

  1. Rural areas- many people live in rural areas that have not been too affected by Covid-19. Due to this, it becomes more difficult to care about what the CDC or government is constricting because it does not pertain to them nearly as much. Now, this has definitely not been all rural areas, as the issue with this can easily turn from “It doesn’t affect us” to “Our entire town has it” very quickly for those areas and the lack of precautions. Some towns recognize this and have been taking higher precautions since the beginning, others have allowed the virus to come and then go, and others have yet to be impacted by it. Unlike cities, the people in rural areas do not get as much traffic from out of town people, and thus have lower chances of getting infected. Due to this, if you are around these areas, it is likely they do not see the need to change their lifestyles or wear masks, because it simply is barely (if at all) affecting them.
    1. If you are looking to connect with someone who lives in a rural area, look up their rates and statistics for Covid-19 infection, if they are low to none, then make sure you are not going to infect them, because the only reason it will hit these towns is due to people coming from the cities who may be carriers. If you know you are not infected, and their town has not been hit- go hang out with them, these are the safest people you could probably see, despite a lack of mask wearing! If you are in a rural area and are concerned about hanging out with other people in your same area, I think it is important to follow Dr. Mike’s rules on be alert not anxious. Check the rates of your town before going out without a mask. Check-in with the people you plan to hang out with to see if they have been to the city any time in the past 3 -5 days, and ask if they took precautions when going to the city. If they have been to those places, but refused to wear masks, see below.
  2. Information and rights (Freedom/distrust of media). Much of the people in the rural areas listed above also fall into this category. However, I would put them in the rural category first and foremost, just with a bit more caution here.
  3. My life couldn’t change due to still having to work

2. I care about someone close to me, but am not overconcerned about getting it myself 

            A. People in this category can be any age and can live anywhere. This category is split between people who have someone close who needs them to be careful, and they have good follow-through, and those who do not have good follow-through with distancing. If someone close to you has let you know they are concerned that it could be fatal for them if they contract Covid-19, then more than likely you had to make a decision to either no longer see that person or be very cautious when you do see that person. When we are younger we tend to have higher impulsivity. So many young people have continued to go out, despite having someone close to them who needs them to be careful. This is a decision they are making for themselves, but if it directly affects your family it is important to have through conversations (not lectures) about the importance to the family and if they understand the potential impacts of their behaviors. If you are the one who is younger, and you are not planning to see anyone you are close to who this could seriously impact, then be sure to follow public space guidelines. 

B. Choose your level of risk, and set good boundaries with your friends and family. Bars and restaurants may be doing social distancing, but it is up to you to space out that line in the parking lot (this has been a big problem for businesses). Respect that not everyone is in the same boat as you, and that is okay. If that person asks you a lot of questions, be as honest as possible so they can make an informed decision for their health on whether they are willing to take the risk for their own body. If you are living (or wanting to hang out) with someone in this category, ask them questions and then determine your own willingness for risk. If they went out to a bar and were around 60 other people, or went to the beach, but it has been 5 days since that happened- perhaps you are more willing to take the risk. If you decide you cannot see them, let them know that you are willing to see them virtually. Perhaps you can even ask them to limit their social contact for 2 days prior to seeing you and schedule a date in advance. Do not be offended if they are unwilling to do this, instead brainstorm options with them. Let them know you really care about them and want to find creative options to hang out with them.       

3. I care about myself and/or my immediate family 

            A. If you are in this category it may be due to you or a family member having one of the immuno-compromised health issues that have been discussed by doctors or the CDC (or just the media in some cases). It might also be because you see the numbers and feel the fear the media and people around you are brining. The first, and more important thing to remember is be ALERT not ANXIOUS. It is okay to be informed, however research takes time (usually things do not get published for years after they have been researched). So, everything you read right now is preliminary in the grand scheme of things. It is for this reasons that many people are polarized.  

B. If you are in this group, have patience with the people around you who may not seem “as careful.” For all the reasons listed above, and more, they have a different belief. Ask them if it is okay if you pry a little and ask them some questions about their past 2-5 days, if not, then you can make the informed decision to only see them virtually, or to ask them to wear a mask. If you are part of a different group, but have a friend in this group then be patient with them. Be as open as you can so they can choose to make a more informed decision about their health. You do not have to take offense if they do not want to see you because you are “too risky.” This is not a usual circumstance and their difference of opinion on your risk level, even if you feel you are not risky is up to them. Respect it. If they want to hang out with you but ask that you wear a mask, this is because they still want to see you but also want to be/feel safe. This is not the same as your government telling you, or the media telling you…it is someone close to you, and let that be okay.  

Stay tuned for a future blog about Covid-19 and dating.

  1. How can people date during COVID-19 if they can’t see each other in person? 
    1. What are some tips for checking in with yourself during this time? 
    1. When, if ever, is the right time to begin quarantining with a friend or significant other?

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