5 Ways to Keep Your Circle Close in a Post-COVID Future

How to keep your relationships strong when the world opens up

Posted Jul 02, 2020

Source: iStock/filadendron

As the number of days spent in quarantine grew, so did the number of texts and emails I was sending.

“I hope you are safe and well” was the message I sent to friends from college, old colleagues I hadn’t seen in years, cousins I had lost touch with, and people I liked but barely saw because we were all so busy before the pandemic hit.

And I received texts and emails, too. I heard from my favorite friend in high school, my first boyfriend (we were 11 years old!), and finally had time to catch up with my sister-in-law.

My favorite texts came daily—a group of friends created a group chat and texted a “Good Morning” GIF and every night sent a funny or sweet “Sleep Well” one.

The outside world may have been closed, but my inside world of friends and family opened up in wonderful ways that I never expected. Now, as my outside world is starting to reopen, I realize that I want to stay connected in these new ways with friends, acquaintances, and loved ones. If you feel similarly, here are five tips on how to maintain our renewed connections.

1. See it as a priority—Think about those who were always there for you even when you didn’t reach out to them—the friends and family you always knew you could call if you had a job problem, a fertility loss, or a relationship crisis. They are your psychological support circle because just knowing they are there is calming and reassuring. You are probably part of their support circle also. Even though you can be out of touch with the confidence that you'll always pick up exactly where you left off, don’t let too much time go by. Now that you have been helping each other through the past few months, make them a priority from now on. Nurture your support circle with calls, questions about their life, humor, and love. If social time tends to fall off given busy work and life events, schedule a standing time for a call or check-in. They deserve some time even when it is limited because they were there when all we had was time.

2. See it as therapeutic—If you chronicled your quarantine on Facebook or Instagram, kept a journal, or texted someone daily, you probably realized that getting your thoughts out there helped you understand your feelings better. It also helped you organize your emotions and opinions. When we are alone, our head can run through a stream of conflicting and confusing thoughts. When we are in touch with others we care about, we often organize, process, and communicate our thoughts more effectively. Therefore, staying in touch with your circle can be beneficial for your mental health and theirs. Changing your perspective and seeing your social time as a mental health benefit will help you prioritize those close to you, even when you have other things going on.

3. See it as nurturing creativity—Those who study creativity point out that John Lennon,  Paul McCartney, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, C.S. Lewis, and many others all shared talks, walks, lunches, and dinners, throwing ideas back and forth at each other. So, if you have a friend who can build on your ideas, not tear them down, treat those friends as a mental ‘nutrient’ that you need regularly. If you have a whole group of friends who can stimulate you and each other with new ideas, perspectives, or new ways of looking at life, keep them together. Take the initiative to set up a monthly Zoom call, house party, wine hour, or pajama party.

4. See it as a daily act of kindness—Try to make sure that you reach out to at least one friend a day for their sake. But before you text or call, think of a question that will show them you are thinking about them and interested in whatever they are going through. Even if you are tired and you’ve worked all day, it will be good for you too because it will remind you that you still have your psychological support circle. 

5. See it as the future—Zoom, Teams, and online multiplayer games, from Words with Friends to Fortnite, connect us while social distancing. I’ve taken dance classes with Dancing with the Stars teachers, played cards with friends while we chatted throughout the game on our phones, and listened to my favorite narrator, Phil Thron, read Barry Hutchison’s Sidekicks Initiative live—all at no cost. These platforms are now usable to me because I have experienced them and feel comfortable using them. I have attended an anniversary party with others from all over the country and the world—on the same screen, which was very heartwarming. And my two 1-year-old nieces got to see each other on Zoom for the first time—one in California and one in New York—while we all watched. The Google Chrome extension called Netflix Party allows you to sync up with a friend and watch a movie together remotely. You could also just text and chat your way through it if you prefer. Doing this brings friends and family together who live far apart and lets you skip the snacks and clean-up.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating, leaving much heartache and uncertainty in its wake. But the chance to slow down, to reflect and recalibrate, and to connect with friends and family, old and new, has been an unexpected positive for many. As life starts going back to normal for some, don’t forget the ones who helped us through and the tools we learned to make this possible.