The Art of Connection in a Time of Isolation
by Roxanne Issurdatt
While “social distancing” and “cocooning” have become the new normal for millions of people across the world, many of us are unaccustomed to spending so much time with ourselves. Loneliness and its associated discomforts will no doubt surge among a population accustomed to a daily diet of social interaction.
As the personal interactions we take for granted fade away—a coffee with a colleague at work, a conversation with someone at the gym—the need for connection and community take on an even greater importance.
Connect with ourselves
‘When people go within to connect to themselves, they realize they are connected … to all living things.”
— Armand Dimele
Fostering connection begins at home. Many people will do anything to avoid being alone with their own thoughts, and the thought of spending the coming weeks in isolation fills others with nothing but dread. But ultimately, we can’t outrun ourselves. Exploring our own sense of self and how we respond to the world puts us in a better position to connect with the greater world and the people around us.
This first step towards fostering a deeper connection with yourself is to be mindful. Listen to your body. For example, where do you feel tension and unease in your body as you adapt to working from home or home-schooling the kids?
Take a moment to center yourself. Breathe in and experience the feelings as they arise, noticing where you feel them in your body, reminding yourself they are not permanent, then breathing out and letting them pass without judgment. Learning to focus on these inner experiences and the immediate environment creates a sense of clarity. This clearness of thought allows you to learn how your body, mind and spirit are reacting in these trying times. Once you know how you are reacting to this new state of affairs, you’ll be in a better position to understand how others are experiencing the same situation. This will ultimately make those connections deeper and more meaningful.
Connect with Others
“The spiritual path is not a solo endeavor.”
— Tara Brach
With gyms closed and social events cancelled, we need to think of new ways to feel connected with our friends, relatives and community. It is easy to default to the idea that true connection requires physical presence, but this is not the case. How many times have we been distracted in a friend’s company, checking our phones for Facebook likes or Instagram updates? True connection is about intention, even if it takes place in the digital realm as opposed to your favourite coffee shop.
Create a WhatsApp chat group for your extended family, organize daily Zoom get-togethers with co-workers, teach your grandparent how to video call — these are all simple steps that help foster connection that can relieve the unease that isolation can engender. Also be on the lookout for community-based initiatives: whether it’s a virtual church service or an online performance by your favourite singer, these kind of wider community-based activities reinforce the sense that there is more in life than our own immediate circle.
This is also great time to remember that it’s not the number of people we have in our lives that matters but to the depth and quality of those relationships. How often have you been out with a group of friends at a crowded restaurant but left feeling as if you didn’t really connect with anyone? Now is the perfect time to reach out to that old friend you’ve lost touch with. They’ll no doubt be keen to catch up too!
Connect with Nature
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
— John Muir
The last thing we need to connect with is the world around us. The temptation to shutter ourselves up inside our homes is real, but for our mental well-being it is vital to get outside at least once each day. Spending time in nature helps to ease the loneliness and sense of confinement that can be amplified by excessive time indoors.
Whether you live in an urban or rural environment, there are options, even when practicing social distancing. A hike in the countryside, an early morning walk when the streets are empty, or simply sitting quietly outside in your garden are all ways to connect with the world around you. Even a few minutes on your balcony looking up at the sky can be enough to calm your nerves and refocus your energy. Spending time in nature also serves to remind us that in the natural world, nothing is stagnant and change is constant.
This too shall pass.
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