Connection & Belonging at a Time of Forced Isolation


Yesterday, the Coronavirus was upgraded to pandemic status by the World Health Organization. Events and gatherings are being canceled. Entire universities are closing their doors and sending their students home. We are encouraged to isolate ourselves more and more as social anxiety around the situation continues to mount.

We are social beings. We are not meant to live in isolation. Connection with others is not only healthy, but also live-saving. So how do we balance our human needs with the threat of contracting or spreading the virus? Because it’s looking like this virus is here to stay for a bit.

How do we cultivate a feeling of connection and belonging with others while we are physically separated from them? It is time to get creative. We need to come up with mindful, innovative solutions to this dilemma. And technology can help!

1. Self-Care: I recommend that we begin with self-care. If you are feeling anxious about the situation and the scary news, take what I refer to as a 10-second vacationTM. Inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 6. Exhaling for longer than your inhale slows your parasympathetic system, lowers your cortisol levels – the stress hormone – and calms you down.

2. If you are glued to your screen for updates on the virus, consider scheduling some time to reach out to friends and family – ideally by video chat if you have the capacity, so you can feel a virtual connection – especially if you live alone or spend much of your day alone. This can help to decrease anxiety, provide a sense of belonging, and remind us what is truly important in our lives.

3. Make sure you are getting fresh air each day, rather than staying cooped up inside. This is good for your health and wellness, and is also a good reminder that we are on this planet together, even if temporarily separated.

4. If you are barred from your regular work day, consider taking the time to learn something! Campuses are offering online courses, which, if held synchronously, can foster a sense of inclusion as educators and students interact virtually.

5. Consider having a virtual meal together with a friend or family member. If you have access to a computer with a camera, you can visit while you are both preparing your meal and as you sit down to eat.

These are just a few ways we can maintain our sense of connection with others as we are discouraged from congregating. And as more in-person events are canceled, virtual gatherings are taking their place. Personally, I have been conducting more virtual implicit bias and other trainings, since my clients want to continue their professional leadership development. It saves my clients the cost of travel arrangements not only for me, but also sometimes for their off-site employees or organization members who want to attend (especially for international companies). An added benefit is that it is better for the planet and climate justice not to contribute to carbon emissions from airplane travel.

Just a few ideas during this bizarre time period. And it goes without saying, stay healthy by washing your hands before every meal and in between!