Staying Social While at Home
One of the reasons why current health and economic crises have taken such a toll on our mental health? Social distancing. While these guidelines are essential to protect us during this time and you should absolutely follow them, we understand that being stuck at home, unable to hang out with family or friends, is tough.
And it can be even tougher if you have a mental health condition that is worsened by social isolation, such as anxiety or depression. According to the American Psychological Association, loneliness is twice as harmful to our physical and mental health as obesity and heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
For those of us who are depressed, the toll may be even greater: it’s even more difficult to motivate yourself to stay in touch with loved ones and to make regular therapy sessions to chat with our providers when there’s a global health crisis going on.
Current events are challenging for anyone to cope with, but especially for people who suffer from a mental illness. If you are stuck at home and want to take care of your mental health, it’s imperative that you find ways to stay social and keep in touch with the people you care about. In this post, we’ll dive deeper into the reasons why our social connections matter to our health and share ways you can keep in touch with loved ones during this time.
Why Staying Social Matters to Mental Health
Social isolation — indicated by living alone, having a small social network, participating infrequently in social events or feeling lonely often — poses risks to our physical and mental health. Thanks to the current health crisis, many people who normally spend lots of time with family and friends are now quarantined at home by themselves. For these people, staying social is especially important to prevent repercussions to their mental health.
But why does staying social matter so much to our mental (and physical) health? Human beings are social creatures; we’re not meant to live in isolation. As a result, our brains are hardwired to help us maintain our social connections with others.
When living in conditions of extreme isolation, people have reported side effects like hallucinations and changes to their sleep cycle. Under ordinary conditions of loneliness, however, side effects include less resilience to stress, problems making decisions and greater susceptibility to illness.
These side effects matter now more than ever given the fact that many of us have been forced to limit our contact with others or to remain confined in our homes by ourselves. The longer this period of isolation lasts, the greater the risks of negative effects on our health and well-being.
That’s why it’s imperative that we learn to adjust to this “new normal” by coming up with creative ways to stay in touch with others, while still maintaining social distancing guidelines.
How to Stay in Touch with Family and Friends From Home
We may not be able to physically touch our loved ones, but we can still stay in touch with them! There is an abundance of modern technology that makes it easier than ever to connect with loved ones from the safety of our home. Read on to discover some of the ways to stay in touch with your family and friends from home in order to stay social while maintaining social distance.
The quintessential way to stay social from home using technology is to do so via video chat. Facetime and Skype are the classic apps people turn to for help when they are looking to communicate with others from afar. However, Facetime and Skype do not have the advantage of allowing many people to be present in the same video call.
To host larger get-togethers from home, you may want to create a free account on Zoom. You may recognize Zoom as a tool that people are using to hold meetings while they are working from home, but you can also use it to host multi-way video calls with friends and family while social distancing.
Zoom is free for hosting personal meetings with up to 100 participants. Group meetings have a limit of 40 minutes at a time, but you can host an unlimited number of meetings — meaning that when your time is up, you need simply to start another call to keep the party going!
To make an ordinary occasion feel more special, try sending an e-vite for your Zoom party via email and giving it a theme — for example, a virtual costume party. This is also the perfect way to celebrate special occasions, like birthdays, baby showers or engagement, while social distancing.
We all have group chats with our family and friends on our cell phones — but when someone doesn’t have the same model of phone as us they may not be able to participate fully in the group chat (for example, receive photos or emojis in someone’s message).
Enter Telegram, a phone and desktop messaging app that solves this problem. Telegram offers safe and secure messaging for up to 200,000 group members. You can send files of any type, including photo or video, to help keep family and friends apprised of everything going on in your quarantine life. There are even stickers and GIFs to add some much-needed humor and levity to everything that’s going on lately.
As a company, Telegram’s goal is not to earn a profit, but to help others keep in touch. This means that the app is 100-percent free to use for the time being! You can write to anyone in your phone contacts who downloads the Telegram app — so if you want to start a Telegram chat, make sure to shoot your family and friends a text letting them know what you’ve discovered.
While stuck at home, you might find yourself playing a lot more video games than usual. (Animal Crossing, anyone?) But gaming at home doesn’t need to be a solitary activity: you can invite family and friends to play with you online on any Massively Multiplayer Online Game, or MMO, for an activity that’s more exciting than your standard video call or group chat.
MMOs allow players from all over the world to interact with one another by cooperating or competing on a large-scale. As long as you invite your family or friends to join the same server as you, you will be able to see their video game character and chat with them through the game. MMOs include fantasy games like World of Warcraft (which may require you to purchase a subscription) as well as racing games, sports games and even casual games like The Sims Online.
Some gaming systems, like the Xbox or Playstation, also allow you to use headsets to chat with friends or family in real-time while playing a multiplayer game. If your loved one has the same gaming system as you and joins the same game through online play, you should be able to play with or against one another while also hearing each other’s voices.
Or, what about hosting a virtual movie night with all your family and friends? Trying to do this via traditional video chat can be annoying. You have to make sure you sync your audio and video at the exact same moment to prevent feedback — and if one person needs to pause, it can throw off the entire movie for everyone else.
The makers of the free Google Chrome extension Netflix Party found a solution to this problem. Using Netflix Party, you can create a virtual room for your family and friends to join and watch a movie together in real-time. All you need to do is download Google Chrome, add the extension and make sure you and your loved one both have a Netflix account. Then, you can start a party and share the URL with friends and family you want to join.
Any movie or TV show on Netflix is fair game for you to watch using Netflix party. There is even a chat box in each room that allows you to converse with loved ones while watching the movie and share your reactions to key moments using fun emojis and GIFs. But the best part is that Netflix party synchronizes video playback, meaning that whenever someone starts or stops the movie, it starts or stops for everyone in the room. This gets rid of those pesky problems that can come with trying to sync up a movie via traditional video chat!
Social distancing might have you feeling lonely, but with today’s technology, staying in touch with family and friends is easier than ever. It’s important to make time to sync up with your loved ones online during this time to prevent the negative physical and mental health effects that come with prolonged isolation.
However, while modern technology offers us many more opportunities to connect virtually than we might have had otherwise, it’s natural if you are still feeling a little down about the fact that you can’t see your friends and family in person while the current crisis is ongoing.
If you need someone to talk to about how you are feeling, you can always connect with one of our trained therapists or counselors here at The Meadowglade to process what you are going through in a constructive way.