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Social Connections During the Pandemic
Presented by Kristin D. Kushmider, PhD, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health, Wellness, Advocacy & Support, with content provided by Grit Digital Health.
Our ability to gather with friends, family, classmates and co-workers has changed drastically since the start of the pandemic. Visiting with others in our favorite bars, restaurants and local hangouts has also been impacted. These changes have left many of us feeling isolated and disconnected from each other putting our social well-being at risk. Social wellness is one of the 7-Dimensions of Wellness, it is essential to our health that we find ways to engage and socialize together and to do so safely. Building a fulfilling social life at college is incredibly important and the circumstances we are under right now make this extremely difficult. While it’s critical we stick to our community guidelines for safe socializing, we still need to take care of our social well-being during these challenging times.So, what can we do to feel more connected even if there are restrictions on socializing? Our partners at Grit Digital health have offered four tips to get us started:
Begin by acknowledging that the situation we are in is hard and that many of us are experiencing suffering. It sounds straightforward, but we’re typically more inclined to do this for others rather than for ourselves. We tend to think ‘I shouldn’t be feeling this way’. Acknowledging our hurt opens the possibility of responding with compassion.
A great trick to get in this mindset is to ask yourself- what would a kind friend, family member, or other caring person say to me? Take that inspiration
and deliver yourself a dose of compassion. During this pandemic many people have trying experiences, and what we’re going through gives us something in common with the rest of humanity. This self-compassion practice can be a particularly helpful
practice if you’ve fallen into the social media compare-and-despair trap (we all do). When you see that picture of people socializing in a way that you can’t or that is not safe for you- recognize this is hard, be kind to yourself, and know
that you’re not alone.
When we’re trying to take on a new behavior that is hard- like maintaining a restrictive quarantine for 14 days or maintaining physical distancing and wearing a mask, it can help to connect that to a higher order value that is important to us. In a journal or on your phone write down 3-5 values that are important to you.
Examples of values are things like learning, honesty, balance, love, responsibility, and self-respect. Now create two columns- one to write actions that you do that are aligned with your values, and a second to write actions that you do (or are tempted to do) that are not aligned with your values. This is a great exercise to help bring clarity when you’re making a decision about socializing that involves assessing the risk- when you stop and look at what really matters to you does this align? Or does it work against your values?
There are lots of ways to interact socially, but some are especially reliable for boosting our mood and strengthening bonds. A new app called Nod, provides lots of ideas to translate this into your life.
Here are a few selections:
When we do get to connect with others, whether it’s virtual or in-person, there’s a sort of comet tail that trails behind the interaction. Our internal dialogue kicks in and we start to evaluate how it went. Our interpretation can have a big impact on how we feel, what we believe about ourselves and our situation.
Here are a few prompts you can try out:
Think of these four tips as part of your social life self-care. Practicing them can help us maintain a level of social well-being that makes us less prone to resort to risky socializing in order to get our needs met. Know that like most well-being activities the impact increases the more we can make these practices part of our routine. That’s why we’re offering a tool for just this purpose. Nod is an app that offers research-backed ideas and tips for building social connections in college. You can find Nod in the Apple and Google Play stores. It’s free for all CU Denver students- just download and sign in using your campus credentials.
And because it can’t be said too many times - this is hard, be kind to yourself, and know that you’re not alone.
Check out these resources for fostering social connections provided by the Auraria Library.