I’m just going to say it: I miss my friends. As we go into our second month of quarantining with no definite endpoint insight, you might be frustrated with enforced social distancing regulations and not being able to see those close to you. Many people have adjusted by taking friendships online (or even more online than they were before), but if you’re anything like me, you may have had more FaceTime/Skype/Zoom calls in the last few weeks than in your whole life, and that can lead to screen burnout really quickly.
Here are some tips for mixing it up while maintaining healthy friendships while we’re together-but-apart.
Find creative ways to stay in touch
If you miss group hangs and movie nights, turn them digital. My long-distance friends and I have developed a routine of watching the same show at the same time while texting in the background. We laugh and cry at the same things in real-time, and it’s a great way to feel together even when we’re far apart. So that everyone in your friend group feels appreciated and heard, make sure you’re watching something that everyone actually wants to watch or taking turns choosing the show or movie.
Respect digital boundaries
As our social relationships move online in addition to work, school, and doctor’s appointments, this new setting can create a new set of challenges for healthy communication. No commute means you’re working in the same space where you usually relax after a long day, and these blurred boundaries can create problems for both focusing and chilling. Even for people who routinely work from home, it can feel like we’re burning out our eyes from staring at screens all day.
And because we know everyone is in the same boat, it can be easy to think, “Well I know they’re not working, so why aren’t they texting/calling/Snapchatting/DMing back?” But you don’t know the reality of what someone’s living with, the shifting relationships and responsibilities in their home that they have to deal with, too, especially if they are essential workers or taking care of other family members. So, if someone suggests a different time or says they can’t talk right now, they probably have a good reason.
Don’t turn into the clingy friend who doesn’t recognize when a boundary has been crossed. Everyone is extra anxious given the current state of the world, but we all need our own literal and metaphorical spaces.
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Encourage alone time
Finding time to pursue independent hobbies was crucial even in the times before coronavirus (which feels like another life, I know). Especially when we don’t know how long quarantine will last, we all have to keep our mental batteries charged. Encouraging your friends to take time for themselves when they feel burnt out or tired will allow everyone to be refreshed for when you do get together (virtually), and then you can have even more fun.
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In these unprecedented times of social distancing, isolation, and related anxiety, maintaining the connections we have is more important than ever. Just like any other time, however, it’s important to ensure that our friendships are safe spaces where everyone feels respected, accepted, and encouraged to be their best selves.