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5 Ways to Foster Connection From a Distance

Apr. 10, 2020Last week, I dropped off a few bags of groceries for my mother. A small errand, yes, but one I looked forward to because I’d be able to talk to her from six feet away while she stood in the doorway of her home and I transferred the groceries to the back of her car.



This scene might seem weird to anyone not aware that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, but interactions like this have become commonplace as social distancing and stay-at-home orders have gone into place for over half of the world population. 

As we work to #FlattenTheCurve and stay home, many of us are beginning to feel the effects of staying apart from everyone else. Namely we’re all really missing our friends, family, and loved ones. What I would give to just hug my parents right now! These are unprecedented times. Events are transpiring that we don’t have a playbook for, but even during dire events, silver linings shine through. 

Like the strength of community that has come from social distancing. From supportive signs popping up in neighborhood windows to teaching loved ones how to use Zoom and FaceTime, we’re all learning new ways to use technology and our creativity to stay connected. And how important that connection is during times of crisis. As we enter our second month of social distancing, perhaps you’re looking for new ways to reach out and be with your friends and family without actually being together. Below, we’re sharing five ways to foster connection while staying safely apart.

Photo by Kate Macate on Unsplash

#1 — Go Old School

Now is the time to revive the art of the hand-written letter. Remember back in the day how excited you would get when a card or letter arrived in the mail addressed to you? With many people confined to their homes spending a lot of time alone, a good piece of snail mail could be just the thing to brighten their day, be it a hand-written card, a small piece of art, or a little gift. 

I recently sent out a batch of mail to family and a few friends. A few months ago, I printed a stack of photos from my phone’s camera roll using the photo printing app Snapfish. It was an impulsive move, and the box sat for a while unsorted, until a couple of weeks ago. At the beginning of our stay-at-home orders, I felt inspired to flip through the pics, pulling some to send to my family and friends from visits and excursions earlier in the year and in 2019. As someone who hasn’t sent a just-for-fun card or letter in ages, I didn’t have much on hand to write on, but what I did have were some left over holiday cards and envelopes. I wrote a few notes, slid in the photos, and sent them off with hopes they’d brighten the day of those who received them. But that first batch of notes had an unexpected effect — after sending them off I felt better, and motivated to send more. In fact, I just placed an order for some blank cards and envelopes that I can decorate with paint and collage for the next round!

 

#2 — Plan a Party…Online

We’ve all heard the stories of people missing birthday celebrations and rescheduling weddings and parties due to the new stay-at-home orders. Maybe you’ve even had to reschedule or rethink an important event yourself. I was supposed to be in Brooklyn at the end of March for a good friend’s bridal shower. It was one of a series of wedding-related dates that would end up rescheduled (including the wedding itself), and us bridesmaids all felt for the bride. So instead of cancelling completely, we surprised her with an impromptu video conference bridal shower using Zoom. For simplicity’s sake, it was small — just the bridesmaids and bride. We sent out an evite with the date and time and shipped a flower crown and macarons to the bride beforehand. We all got dressed in our finest for the call. Did it replace the feeling of an in-person bridal shower? No, and thankfully the real thing was rescheduled. But creating a little celebration brightened all of our spirits — and gave us an excuse to wear something other than loungewear for a change. 

Instead of cancelling celebrations completely, think of ways you can still honor the events on the calendar. Have a game night with friends, have a FaceTime call with your bff while you watch a new show or favorite movie, plan a “drive by birthday” for a friend or child who might be sad they’re missing a traditional party. Finding ways for celebration can inspire hope, connectedness, and happiness in times of darkness, which is arguably when we need those feelings the most.

#3 — Make a Rainbow Or Join a “Bear Hunt”

One of the more heartwarming effects of social distancing is seeing neighborhoods and communities find ways to come together while staying at least six feet apart. If you’ve noticed handmade rainbows in windows or stuffed bears sitting on window sills, you’ve spotted some of these community-building activities. 

If these visuals have left you wondering, you’ve likely not heard of rainbow hunts or bear hunts. So what’s the deal? Some communities are asking residents to put rainbows or stuffed bears in windows for children to spot and count while out on walks or drives with their families. It gives children something to do while getting some fresh air with their families — double if you have kids at home who can paint, draw, or collage a rainbow with you — and encourages community during a time when we’re all feeling a bit isolated. Bear hunts work similarly, but instead of a rainbow, you place a stuffed bear in the window. Check your local online community board, like Nextdoor or Facebook, to see if your neighborhood is taking part in these fun activities, and if not, get it started!

While on the subject of community, many neighborhoods are also finding ways to thank healthcare workers and those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. Front placing candles in windows to playing music or clapping at specific times, there are a myriad of ways to show your support and appreciation. Check your local online group to see if your neighborhood is participating in any of these activities and if not, consider starting a nightly appreciation practice.

 

#4 — Cook Together Or Start a Cookbook Club

Just because you can’t be in the same space as your friends or some family members doesn’t mean you can’t spend quality time together. With restaurants closed and everybody cooking more than ever, why not come together over a meal with your loved ones? Not physically of course, but over Zoom, Facetime, or Google Hangouts. Set up your computer, tablet, or phone in the kitchen and choose a recipe or type of meal to make together. Maybe you both love dessert or are missing your Sunday morning brunches. Instead of letting them go, make do with a virtual cooking date and cook or bake together using the same recipe.

If you’ve been wanting to learn how to improve your cooking, consider starting a cookbook club and taking a culinary journey through a cookbook with a few friends. You all make the same thing – maybe even over a video call – and post your photos to a Facebook group or Instagram account. Food has always brought people together. With an adaptive approach, this can still be true. And you might even discover a new favorite recipe to try together IRL in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.

#5 — Plan a Date Night

We’ve focused a lot on staying connected with those outside your home, from your friends to family to community, but what about staying connected to the people you’re socially distanced with? While it may sound simple, fostering togetherness takes work, even — sometimes especially — when you live with the one you love. While it’s important to give your significant other space during this unprecedented time (and you in turn deserve your own breathing room, too), it’s important to find ways to feel connected, too. My husband and I used to love visiting restaurants in our little food-loving city, or go on challenging hikes in the mountains, but now that restaurants are closed and strenuous hikes are out of the question (it’s smart not to put yourself in any situation that might require medical care right now), we’re finding new ways to stay connected to those activities, like walks around our neighborhood or making special dinners. 

But it’s not just about date nights with your sweetheart, it’s about setting aside special time to spend with yourself, your kids, or even your roommates. Treat yourself to a bath and a good book, or rent a movie with your roommates — it all counts and that time can provide a much-needed distraction from what’s happening in the world. You’re allowed to make good memories when times are tough.

 

How are you staying connected while staying apart? Share with us on social by tagging @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine!

Julie O'Boyle

By Julie O'Boyle

 —  Julie O'Boyle is a freelance writer and content strategist with a background in fashion and DIY and a devotion to the outdoors and functional nutrition. Currently residing in the woods of Maine, when she's not writing you can find her at the beach or on a mountain, or otherwise getting her hands dirty.

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