How to Cope with Extended Social Isolation (Especially During the Holidays)

All over the world, governments are enacting or encouraging extended social isolation measures to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 diagnoses. And while these measures are meant to protect the physical welfare of people in those areas, the mental and emotional impact of continued social isolation is something a lot of people don’t know how to deal with.

The reality is that long-term isolation from the people you care about (even if you’re a self-professed hermit or introvert) can be difficult to cope with. It’s especially challenging for people who depend on some form of close or in-person interaction to feel happy.

To make matters worse, at the time that I’m writing this, we’re in the middle of the winter holiday season. This time of year is hard for a lot of people already… so adding in pandemic-induced social isolation just makes matters that much worse.

So, what can we do to cope with extended social isolation (which includes everything from having to stay 6 feet away from people to being mandated to stay indoors)… especially during a time of year when being around loved ones is even more important? Below, I will share a few things you and your loved ones can do to make this time apart a bit more manageable… and implement some much-needed socializing even in the midst of social isolation.

How to Cope with Extended Social Isolation

Get on the Phone

I know that over the past decade or so, with the internet becoming ever more popular, getting on the phone (for something other than customer service) seems like a thing of the past. But, maybe it’s time to go back to making that a regular thing. Pick up your phone and call the people you care about. Check in. See how they’re doing. Share what you’re up to. Talk about everything… and nothing. You might be surprised how good it can feel when you’re able to talk to someone in real-time and hear their voice instead of always chatting through text messages.

Group Text Chats

But, don’t get me wrong. I think text messaging is another great way to stay in contact with and connected to your friends and family. In fact, I encourage you to create or join group chats with your loved ones where you can instantly connect with not just one person, but multiple that you want to talk with. It can be a great way to stay connected with your full support system or network. And, when you have multiple groups for the various parts of your network, you’re able to keep a relationship going with people from all areas of your life. Some platforms that allow you to create group text chats include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, GroupMe, and WeChat.

Group Voice Chat

If you prefer hearing each other’s voices, one option that I love is Voxer, which is like having walkie talkie access to your people. You can leave voice messages or talk back and forth in real-time with the push of a button. It enables you to talk to people one-on-one and their free version even lets you create groups of up to 500 people!

Video Calls

When hearing your loved ones’ voices isn’t enough, you can always turn to video chats. Platforms like FaceTime,  Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom are only a few of the options you have for seeing the smiling faces of the people you care about. You can use these video calls to chat about everyday things, get caught up on exciting news, have daily or weekly happy hours, and even have virtual events like birthday parties, baby showers, and holiday meals.

Play Online Games

Miss family game night? Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to! You can just take it all online. All of the major game consoles (like Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo) have an online, social component that allows you to play games with and talk to people all over the world… as long as you have a reliable internet connection. You can even play some of your favorite board games online! So turn on the wifi, grab a headset, and start having fun! Need some inspiration? Here’s an article on 17 family-friendly online games.

Watch Movies Together

Love getting together with loved ones to watch a new movie or an old favorite? You can still do that! Get together with your loved ones and decide to watch a movie at the same time. Knowing that you’re all doing the same thing can make you feel good. Some platforms even let you set up watch parties to make it even more official. One platform that is leading this is Hulu, which allows you to host watch parties for thousands of titles from their library of movies and TV shows. Another option is Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party), which lets you host watch parties on some of the top streaming platforms, like Netflix, Hulu, Disney, and HBO. So pop some popcorn, grab your favorite beverage, and join your loved ones in front of the TV. And don’t forget to discuss it with each other afterward!

Join or Create Online Communities

Want to be able to share videos, pictures, and more with your network? Create or join online communities to hang out with them. Of course, the most popular option is Facebook Groups! The groups can be just for keeping in contact or they can be centered around a specific purpose or hobby (like a book club, a knitting club, or anything else you enjoy). You can just post random things or even have an itinerary that involves live chats, events, and more!

Have Fun Virtual Competitions

Enjoy a bit of friendly competition? How about competing from a distance? You could have a cookie decorating contest, see who can make the most outrageous ugly sweater, have a bake-off to see who can pull off the best version of a specific dish, have a contest to see who can make the craziest outfit from their closet, or… well, anything really! Here’s a list of some really fun family night competitions to give you more ideas. Here’s another list of 30 fun challenges for when you’re on a video call.

I hope that this list inspires you to socialize and stay connected. Have another idea on how to cope during extended socialization? Let us know in the comments!

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