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How to Stay Connected During the Pandemic

7 months.


We have been in a global pandemic for nearly 7 months.


For almost 7 months, many of us have been socially distancing from everyone. As isolation and distancing become the new norm, it’s harder to connect your friends and loved ones farther away. Although you may see friends at school, it's definitely not the same, especially for those attending school or working virtually. These restrictions, albeit necessary for our safety and health, can limit interactions with others and make us feel disconnected from the rest of the world. This could lead to stress, anxiety, loneliness, and possibly depression without a healthy way to cope with your stress.

“This is a difficult time for many of us because as human beings, we like to have control over our environment,”

- Health psychologist, Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP. D.



Why is it important to stay connected?


Amidst this pandemic, many people deal with feelings of stress due to being overwhelmed from the possibility of having COVID-19. Necessary public health actions, particularly social distancing, have made many people feel isolated and lonely, which could heavily impact our mental health and thus our overall well-being. This is because our mental health can negatively affect “how we think, feel, and act. It may also affect how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices during an emergency” (CDC). When your mental health suffers from too much stress or work, it can affect your decision-making skills and outlook on current stressful situations. One of the most effective ways to relieve stress is to connect regularly with your friends. However, it can be particularly difficult during this pandemic because you can't see your friends every day at school or meet up with them to just be together.

(Eventbrite)


Ways to stay connected


Here are some ways, apart from texting, to stay connected with your friends and loved ones while staying safe amidst this pandemic:

  1. Among Us is a social deduction game that you can play with up to 9 other people online. Similar to the mafia game, one or more of your friends is the imposter and you have to find out who it is while the crewmates finish tasks. (Personal note: I really recommend this game as it is a friend bonding experience while relieving stress by yelling at each other to determine the imposter)

  2. Discord is a platform where you can join and create customizable servers with your friends. It supports video calls, voice chat, and texting, making it easy to connect with other people easily and in an organized way. You can create custom stickers for different servers or create separate channels for separate topics.

  3. Facetime, or any other video calling software, can help you feel like you are actually talking with someone rather than texting since you can actually see the person and feel like you are with them.

  4. Netflix Party is a Google extension that could be used if you and your friends have a Netflix subscription. Through this extension, you and your friends can watch a movie or tv show of your choosing while far away from each other.

  5. Houseparty is an app accessible on IOS devices that is another version of facetime, but better. Through Houseparty, you can play competitive games with your friends and video call at the same time. Some interactive games include Karaoke, Pick Me, Uno, Word racers, Heads Up, Trivia, Quick Draw, Magic 8 Ball, and Chips and Guac.

(Kristina Astakhova, Getty Images)


Benefits of connecting with friends

  • Prevent loneliness: Being able to converse through messages or on calls with others can make you feel like you are with someone and present in their lives.

  • Boost happiness: Talking with others can increase your serotonin levels (serotonin is a chemical and neurotransmitter that contributes to your well being and happiness).

  • Reduce stress: Oftentimes, friends are a great support system that allows you to express your feelings, which could motivate you and help you when you feel down.

  • Improve self-confidence and help you cope: When you find reliable friends, talking to them can help you through difficult mental situations. Not only can talking through your problems with someone help you destress, but friends can also sympathize with you and give advice.

  • Live healthier and longer: According to a study by the University of North Carolina, "the more socially active a person is at an early age, the better their health is at the beginning and end of their lives with lower blood pressures"

  • Strengthen your cognitive thinking: Talking with friends can keep your brain active as they can give you more insight and ideas that you may not have thought of. Being able to take part in leisure-based activities regularly with your friends can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Social situations make your brain think, feel, and sense, and these are “mentally-stimulating activities build up healthy brain cells and promote new connections between neurons.”

  • Build relationships that can last a lifetime: Connecting with friends regularly can create stronger friendships that could be your future support system.

  • Improve overall health: it is proven that adults with “strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index” (Mayo Clinic)

If you are feeling disconnected or lonely, please try out any of the ways above to connect with your friends. Not only is it a healthy way to cope with stress, but it could also be an enjoyable way to spend time with your friends during this pandemic!


References:

Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010, July 27). Social Relationships and Mortality

Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. Retrieved October 3, 2020, from

https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316

Hornshaw, P. (2020, September 02). What Is Discord? Retrieved October 3, 2020, from

https://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/what-is-discord/

Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19. (2020, July 1). Retrieved October 3, 2020, from

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-

anxiety.html

The Health Benefits of Friendship. (2020, July 27). Retrieved October 3, 2020, from

https://thinkhealth.priorityhealth.com/the-health-benefits-of-friendship/

The health benefits of good friends. (2019, August 24). Retrieved October 3, 2020, from

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-

20044860#:~:text=Boost%20your%20happiness%20and%20reduce,drinking%20or%20

lack%20of%20exercise

What is serotonin and what does it do?. (n.d.). Retrieved October 3, 2020, from

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248


Featured image is courtesy of Ekaterina Bolovtsova via Pexels.



Article Author: Kelley Liang

Article Editors: Valerie Shirobokov, Stephanie Sahadeo

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