Dealing with Anxiety & Depression Through Social Connection in the Era of the Coronavirus
Updated: Apr 18, 2020
Was it really only a couple weeks ago that you were going about your daily business? You went to the office every day only stressed about the work tasks to be done. You took going out to eat for granted and got together with friends frequently.
And then, the novel coronavirus we’d heard about in China started to show up here. Suddenly, everything changed. You started to hear the term “social distancing” and everywhere you looked people were reminding you to cough into your elbow and wash your hands frequently. Before you knew it, your daily life had changed.
Everything in Illinois Changed in an Instant
And now, Governor Pritzker has issued a stay-at-home order for all of Illinois.
You feel about a million different emotions over the course of the day. One moment you feel fine. In fact, you’re even enjoying the little moments of solitude. The next, you feel alone and start to panic. There’s the fear of the future. Concern about those you know who are getting sick. Confusion. And depression.
Illinois residents are dealing with sudden, unwanted aloneness
This physical distance is necessary during this uncertain time. You’re doing your part to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19 through our state. But you’re starting to feel isolated.
You are used to greeting your barista at the local coffee shop on your way to work. In normal circumstances, you enjoy chatting with your colleagues for a few minutes each day. Perhaps you look forward to meeting up with your trainer or attending an exercise class at the gym. There are weekend visits to grandparents and dinner parties with friends. But now, you have to keep physical distance from everyone and it feels lonely.
We need physical distancing, not social distancing
We need to support each other through this and connect more than ever. You avoid trauma by connecting with others and processing your emotions. Therefore, while the physical separation is necessary right now, so is social connectedness.
During times of stress, it’s important that you have an opportunity to connect with others. You need to feel seen and heard.
This is a shared experience we are going through as a state, a country and even across the globe. So, please, share the experience. Don’t isolate. Reach out and find a way to connect.
Focus on connecting with people online during the COVID 19 outbreak
Now is the time to get creative. The internet gives us the perfect platform for sharing our experiences and staying connected with others right now. Here are a few ideas we have for staying connected but feel free to share yours in the comments as well!
Virtual Dinner Parties
Set up a virtual dinner party by preparing a meal, FaceTiming a friend and propping a phone, tablet or computer up so you can visit as you share a meal together. Bonus points if you are able to share similar meals!
FaceTime your child’s cousin or best friend and let the kids interact. Don’t try to add too much structure. It’s ok if they spend the whole time giggling, don’t hold the camera in the right place or take off for a minute to grab something they want to “show” the other child. There is now a Facebook chat program for kiddos as well. Some people are even organizing Zoom meetups for kids to check in with their classmates. Children need to feel connected as well, so these opportunities are priceless for enhancing their sense of connection and allowing them to practice their social skills on some small level.
Connect with an old friend
Make a commitment to reconnect with at least one person each day. Reach out to friends you’ve lost touch with or more distant family members you rarely have time to see. Send an e-mail or a text message. Better yet, call or FaceTime. Use this time to feel closer to people you may usually be too busy to connect with.
Facebook Support Groups
There are reports that online support groups helped people in Wuhan, China maintain a sense of connection as they were the first ones to go into lockdown mode. Online Facebook groups were a place for people to share information, and support one another.
There are many of these groups popping up, but here are a few focused on communities in Illinois:
Evanston area COVID-19 community support: https://www.facebook.com/groups/230958171283890/about/
So IL COVID 19 Support Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2842031599250887/
COVID-19 Chicago Watch: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1073376549702981/
Mutual Aid- Chicago Northwest Suburbs – COVID19: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Covid19mutualaidchicagonwsuburbs/
Coronavirus COVID-19 Illinois: https://www.facebook.com/groups/530308957672735/
In-House Date Night
You don’t have to go out to have a nice time reconnecting with your partner. Consider ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant or even trying to prepare something new from a recipe together. Then, cuddle up together on the couch and watch a movie on Netflix. If the dinner and a movie thing gets old, try getting out a silly board game or any of these fun date night ideas!
Look for ways to help others
Think of someone else who may be scared and alone right now and reach out. What can you do to help them? Do you have a loved one who lives alone you can call and provide some social interaction for? What about a family member in a nursing home who may appreciate a handwritten card? Or maybe you have a sewing machine and can sew masks for healthcare workers.
If you have a young child, consider calling grandparent or other relative and having them read to your child. This can help maintain family bonds and connections on both ends of the spectrum. Additionally, calling your child and having them read TO another person can be great reading practice.
Connect with a Licensed Mental Health Professional Online
Therapists and counselors are experts in helping people cope with their emotions and find ways to reconnect. At the Center for Relational Transformation, helping people transform their lives through improving relationships is what we do. So, if you are feeling disconnected, now is the time to reach out and speak to a mental health provider. While most therapists (ours included) have now moved completely to online counseling, we can provide you the support and connection you need to cope with all of the emotions that come up through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Don’t wait to ask for help.
It’s normal to feel stressed, confused, angry, sad or scared during this time. When this much change happens this quickly, everyone is going to feel a wide range of emotions. But please, if you begin to feel down or anxious, reach out for help sooner rather than later. The truth is that this virus is still spreading. Things may get worse before it gets better. It’s much better to have someone you can talk to now to help you through this really difficult time. Our work together will go faster now as preventative work than later when we’re having to undo the trauma after you’ve developed a deeper depression or full anxiety disorder.
Through online counseling sessions (or phone sessions if needed), our compassionate therapists are able to come into your home, be with you and help you feel better all while maintaining physical distance. You don’t have to go through this alone. Let our therapists walk this path with you and help you digest everything that is going on through online therapy sessions.
Online Therapy for Couples & Individuals in Illinois:
The hope you are looking for is right here, from online counselors at our Chicago counseling practice. Phone sessions are also available if you need them as well. Our caring therapists are ready to help you manage your anxiety, depression and more through online therapy. To begin:
Hear back from a therapist within 24 hours (except on Sundays)
Feel more connected during this crisis.
You don't have to feel alone or isolated during this stressful time. Counseling can help.
More Therapy Services From Our Downtown Chicago Counseling Center
Helping individuals and couples dealing with relationship issues is our passion. With online therapy in Illinois, you can and will become better than ever before. Our framework for compassionate communication helps couples in all stages of a relationship. We can help with premarital counseling, couples therapy, poly, and open relationship counseling and marriage counseling. If you have experienced infidelity, we offer divorce discernment therapy and affair recovery counseling. Our skilled therapists also offer anxiety treatment and depression therapy in our downtown Chicago psychotherapy office. We look forward to helping you become the best version of yourself you can be.