Other ways to socialize and continue living Other ways to socialize and continue living

The fact that social activities are restricted and many public spaces are closed does not mean that contact and connection is lost. Here are some ways to encourage it.

Advisor: María Elena López
Family Psychologist

Internet shortens distances, as do chat applications, video calls, and social networks that allow us to create virtual spaces for sharing experiences, opinions, and feelings with friends we haven’t seen physically in months. However, the options provided by our screens limit our ability to explore other perspectives, for example, spending time with those under our roof.

“Balancing the time we spend on our personal virtual devices is important for family life. This does not mean that we have to limit screen time, as many need to continue sharing on those platforms, but we can find a way to share it, for example, watching a movie together or learning how to make a recipe with a YouTube tutorial,” recommends family psychologist María Elena López.

Taking advantage of the possibility of physical contact is important when it is so limited by public health issues. “Human beings are sociable by nature and need contact and interaction to be nourished emotionally, intellectually, and socially. This responds to a deep psychological need and is a way to decrease levels of stress and anxiety during this time,” adds López.

It is clear that the pandemic has changed many habits, has taken us away from things that we used to enjoy, and has filled us with new emotions that need to be expressed. So, in addition to the usual digital options, it is worth exploring other forms of analog expression that, without a doubt, will help us process everything that has happened.

Writing by hand

María Andrea Kronfly, cofounder and director of Fábula, a communications laboratory in Medellín, had the idea to start writing letters again. Although we are writing emails and text messages all the time, some people have never sat down to write a letter, this time to the “beloved coronavirus,” that confined us at the beginning of the year. María Andrea and her laboratory invited the general public to express their feelings during the height of the quarantine on social networks. The result was a space for compiling relief and understanding on the website www.queridocoronavirus.com.

“When you make the decision to write, even if you are not a writer, you have to recognize your emotions coldly. You have to go inside and explore what you are feeling in order to express it. The first gain is to make the decision to look at yourself and recognize those emotions. The second is that by expressing them, the fear, sadness, and anxiety you were holding inside comes out. There is a release. The third gain is that already seeing them expressed in words, you really feel a relief, you don’t necessarily stop feeling sad, but at least you can see it in a different way, like ‘I am not that sadness, it is something that is outside.’ It’s a healing exercise,” explains Kronfly, who also sees reading others’ letters as the possibility to identify with the emotions of others and realize that you are not alone.

For López, listening and being heard, besides being a way to express feelings, is a way to clarify, stay calm, and organize. “It is also a way to have personal support and security,” she states. This is why she recommends the exercise of writing, in a letter format, which can either be shared or left for your own enjoyment.

Out loud

Another good option for expressing feelings is singing and theater, through virtual classes or a personal exploration. “As actors and performers, what we do is take all the traumas and things we want to say through characters or songs. Singing is very intimate because the instrument is inside my body and is affected by my mood, so when I sing, I am expressing many things, more so if it is connected with intentions such as those required by the performance,” explains Marco Gualdrón, professor of Musical Theater at the Universidad del Rosario and Misi in Bogotá.

Although the experience of taking theater and singing classes at a distance has not been entirely satisfactory, since not all students have the same technical possibilities or confidence working with audiovisual media to share their performances, it has given them the possibility of having more personal lessons, since the classes are one-to-one. They are also a way to change up your routine and are a good outlet for expressing the anxiety that isolation can produce.

The most intimate moments, or loneliness itself, are also interesting spaces to get to know ourselves. “We can take advantage of our isolation to meditate, get to know ourselves, listen to ourselves, try new things that the rhythm we had before didn’t allow us to do,” explains López.

While there are increasing opportunities to meet with people outside our family units, and some are even returning to spaces for learning, it is important to note that the virus has not gone away, and that many people remain especially vulnerable to its effects. So, it is better to keep up the idea of isolation for a bit longer and continue to find the charm in other forms of contact and expression.

Entertain yourself safely

While younger people do not have as many risk factors for contracting the virus, they can be vectors of infection for those who do, such as older adults. Therefore, it is essential to keep up with all safety measures; but that does not mean you can’t have fun. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Children website and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control provide some options for spending time with friends in our new reality.

  • Walk
    Take walks together, outdoors. You can use this opportunity to take your pets out.
  • Skate
    Whether it’s rollerblading or skateboarding, learn something new!
  • Ride your bike
    Schedule bike rides with your friends and family. Remember to wear safety gear and do it in safe areas.
  • Camping
    A great idea to do with your family.
  • Have a picnic
    Prepare something tasty to enjoy outdoors with your friends.
  • Binge watch series and movies
    Some platforms allow you to connect with your friends to watch movies from a distance.
  • Organize a book club
    Choose a book that you and your friends lke, and get together, virtually, to talk about it.
  • Start a blog or videoblog
    Choose a topic that interests you and your friends, and create content for your new blog.
  • Take a tour
    Connect with your friends to take tours of museums or watch concerts online.

“Let’s support and protect the elderly. Recognized in their rights as free and responsible people, it is everyone’s commitment to support their life and care process, emphasizing that their high vulnerability to infection does not imply confinement or emotional isolation:” Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Colombia.