I am an introvert and you may think this time of isolation is an introvert’s paradise, and yet I crave human contact. This is true regardless of the fact that for the past two weeks, I have largely been at home with my partner and her son. I have been connecting with colleagues, clients, family and friends through phone or online – I am not truly isolated.
I go for daily walks and while maintaining a healthy physical distance, I reach out with my body language and voice to say, “Hey! I am here. I see you, do you see me?” These brief interactions help to maintain a sense of social cohesion and more importantly, let people know that I care about them and invite them to share the same message back. “Hi!” can be a powerful affirmation.
Unfortunately, there are also those who are not heeding the warnings to self-isolate at this time or practicing physical distancing. During my trip to the grocery store yesterday, I was disappointed to see staff and customers alike failing to stay a healthy distance away from each other. I am not sure what underlies this choice and I recognize it threatens the health of those involved and the health of those who are serving us the most right now: frontline health care workers and other individuals providing essential services. If your social interaction leads you to contracting Covid-19, this does not just impact you – it may impact the Food Service worker who then also becomes sick and is not able to work. This creates additional strain on our health care system when we need to part of the solution to reduce this strain. And, in a worst case scenario, if you become gravely ill, it affects your entire social network. We are all connected.
What can you do?
Practice and lead on physical distancing. Give space to others and check how close you are to other people. If people get too close to you, be clear and kind about what you are trying to do: “I am keeping a safe distance away from you for your health and my health. Please do the same.”
Be friendly and kind to the people you meet if you are out, at a distance. People want to feel connected to each other, even strangers. Making eye contact, waving, sharing a friendly “Hi” all helps to reinforce our social connection to one another.
If you have friends or family who are struggling to follow physically distancing, you can talk to them about it. As described in the CBC article, “How to talk to family and friends who ignore social distancing appeals“, it is not a time to start an argument but there are strategies to appeal to peoples’ values or what may be important to them.
For those who are less introverted or may be struggling with isolation, you can reach out your social network and setup a time to meet virtually. I acknowledge it is not as good as actual face-to-face conversations, and yet it can still help with those social connections.