How Social Distancing Can Strengthen Our Relationships

Slow down and savor instead of stressing out.

Posted Mar 17, 2020

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Engaging in activities together like cooking can strengthen our connections.
Source: Pexels

So many big changes are occurring around the world right now. And at rapid speed. From school closures to businesses and now entire cities shutting down due to the coronavirus, there is a lot of uncertainty of what’s yet to come. 

It’s natural that stress levels are skyrocketing. For many of us, our schedules have been suddenly turned upside down. We tend to be creatures of habit who crave some type of certainty. So, this unprecedented change in routine can naturally lead to anxiety for us and our families. We don’t know what to expect. 

Many of us are worried about what we can no longer do. 

A widespread cancellation of public events, business meetings, and professional sporting and cultural events is highlighting all the things we can no longer do and is making an impact on our daily lives. Not to mention our personal recreational activities, hobbies, and our children’s sports practices that regularly fill the week. 

Coupled with this void, the social distancing, which is critical for our health and that of others, may make us feel disconnected from others. 

However, it’s important to remind ourselves that while we need to physically distance ourselves from others, we shouldn’t emotionally seclude ourselves from others. We evolved as social creatures and depended on one another for survival. 

Now, more than ever, we need each other for psychological sustenance. Despite the struggles we are all experiencing, try seeing it as an excellent opportunity to help build an emotional connection with our loved ones. 

Instead of focusing on what we can’t do, ask yourself what are things you can do during these uncertain times to build individual and collective well-being.

Here are three things we can do to improve our individual well-being and build a stronger connection with others: 

Slow down and reflect.  

Being shut in at home has forced us both to slow down our daily rhythms. We have been consciously reflecting on those healthy habits that we want to build more of in our daily lives, such as practicing meditating more, engaging in a regular yoga practice (Suzie) and high-intensity training (James).         

Remind yourself that being shut-in doesn’t mean being shut down. Stop, pause, and reflect on the moment. Practice taking time for yourself on a daily basis to breathe, meditate, and stretch. By doing so, you will be able to better respond, rather than react, during tough times. 

Be grateful.  

While doing our last run at the grocery store to buy some staples before the impending lockdown we were shocked to see so many sparse shelves. It immediately made us appreciate the abundance of food that we usually take for granted. It reminded us of how fortunate we are and how many people around the world don’t have access to fresh produce on a daily basis. Despite the lack of fruits and vegetables and some other foods, it shifted our perspective. We were immensely appreciative of the groceries we were still able to purchase during this crisis. Not to mention having a roof over our heads and clean running water to drink. So many people in the world are lacking in these basic necessities that many of us take for granted. It encouraged us to reach out to our local community to see how we can help others during this time of need.  

What are those things you’re grateful for right now in your life? How can you shift your perspective to focus more on what you do have, rather than what you lack? How can you reach out to help your community during this challenging time? 

Savor experiences together (in person or virtually). 

During the past week, we have taken the opportunity as a family to savor our time together. While things have been quite disorderly and hectic with the three of us all suddenly home together, we are doing our best to find and feed the good in it. 

Suzie Pileggi Pawelski
James and Liam studying together.
Source: Suzie Pileggi Pawelski

Like many others, we live very busy schedules, work late nights, and don’t have as much quality time together as we’d like. Now, being shut-in has afforded us the opportunity to do more things together as a family. Yes, it’s been a bit rough adjusting to this new schedule, homeschooling our third grader while trying to get our work done as well.

However, there were many unexpected benefits. Seeing more of one another throughout the day, not just in the morning and evening, has been incredibly rewarding. It’s been fun taking breaks to exercise, make chocolate chip pancakes, and play games together, which reenergizes us when we return to our work.  

Suzie Pileggi Pawelski
Suzie and Liam connecting over a fun game.
Source: Suzie Pileggi Pawelski

Rather than separation, focus on mindfully savoring one another. 

What are those things you can do together as a family that you may not normally have time for? If not together, how can you connect with loved ones virtually? Perhaps, try calling a relative or close friend and share why you’re grateful for them. Reminisce about a great shared experience from the past. Or, arrange a video conference to plan and anticipate a future get-together.

Sharing your excitement is an excellent way to feel better and spread your positivity.  

In sum, by taking the time to slow down, express gratitude, and savor, we will stay connected with ourselves and become better versions of our selves. In turn, we will be able to show up better for one another and strengthen our connections.  

References

Pileggi Pawelski, S & Pawelski, J. (2018). Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. New York: TarcherPerigee.