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How to Stay Connected During the Coronavirus Crisis

In these anxious times, it’s more important than ever to see familiar faces.

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Against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, I’ve had several conversations with friends that were deeper, more emotional and more honest than I can remember having had in the months that proceeded. The steps we take to keep ourselves safe—whether isolating or breaking up our normal routines—can also exacerbate our feelings of loneliness, even fear. Knowing we’re all experiencing these feelings in different ways is all the more reason to make the effort to connect. Here’s what I would suggest. 

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Jot down a list of people—even just three, four or five—under the following headings: friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. Develop a contact plan for the days and weeks ahead for those you should be reaching out to on a more regular basis. It could be an aunt who lives alone, or far away, that is taking this outbreak especially hard. It could be an older neighbor, or a couple that just moved in nearby, who may be isolating as a precaution and may need help or just company. Some you may want to contact every day; some, every week. These need not be long conversations—they can even be emails or tags on social media.

At the end of this period—and rest assured, it will end—you will emerge with more, deeper and better relationships.

What I know is that this will make them feel better—and you, too. I certainly felt this with the friends I spoke to recently. They felt an empathetic release, and I did too. You’ll offer comfort to these friends, coworkers and relatives, and you may find benefit and greater intimacy that will, one day, pay dividends. At the end of this period—and rest assured, it will end—you will emerge with more, deeper and better relationships.

If there is one silver lining to this fast-unfolding crisis, it has been remaining in close contact with my immediate family. I am lucky in that my three grown children and grandchildren are all (relatively) nearby. Over the last four or five days, I’ve had many more conversations than usual with my son-in-law, my daughter and my two sons. Even while I worry about what they’re feeling—anxiety, fear of the unknown—all of this contact has made me feel better. This weekend, I suggested that we have a daily conference call for the four of us. We first tried it Saturday morning. We talked about real things. It was reassuring and, I think, healthy. I heard their concerns, and we talked about problems and solutions, namely, what to do if someone gets sick.

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I also would encourage you to use the amazing new communication technologies available today—Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.—to create regular group conversations among your family or specific groups of friends. If you have older folks in your circles who have never embraced a technology like that, you can provide a real service, a gift: Call them and walk them through setting it up. It will change their lives. In these anxious times, it’s more important than ever that they can see familiar faces as well.

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