Do Your Friendships Feel Different Covid May Be To Blame
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was a global pandemic. After this, many governments recommended public health measures such as social distancing and quarantining to slow the spread of the disease. While these practices reduced the risk of COVID-19 infection, an unintended consequence of these measures is that many people reported feeling isolated and less socially connected to others. During non-pandemic times, friendships help protect against these adverse outcomes.
Planting Herbs: Learning How To Get Growing
Tang freely admits she often fails to keep green things alive. But when Graduate Student Government offered an online herb-growing tutorial, she figured shed give it another shot.
A kit arrived with a biodegradable pot, a packet of herb seeds and a disc of dried soil that plumped up with a sprinkling of water. She assembled the tiny garden and crossed her fingers.
I was hoping Id be good this time, but they havent grown at all! she says. I felt so bad. But I was inspired by it and got some potted herbs at the grocery store. I have a mint plant that is doing pretty well. Maybe Im just not good at the initial growing process who knows!
Think Outside The Box
Loneliness and stress can have long-term health effects, Agelopoulos said, and its important to prioritize quality over quantity that is, connect with people that you care about.
Lack of social connectedness heightens your health risks. Not just your mental health, Agelopoulos said. A 2017 Brigham Young University psychology study showed that loneliness can exert the same physical toll on the body as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
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Mental Health Friendships And Covid
My colleague Travis Cruickshank and I surveyed 1,599 Australians from various age groups during the national lockdown in April. Our study is still at the preprint stage, which means it hasnt yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
A substantial proportion of participants reported a deterioration in their mental health due to COVID-19 .
We also asked how their friendships had been affected, and surprisingly, most respondents reported no change . This was despite 72% noting they were interacting face-to-face with friends a lot less during the pandemic.
Join An Online Book Group
A book group has always been a no-fail way to make friends. However, these have also taken a hit in the age of Covid. One alternative is an online book group. Until recently Sam Jordison ran the Guardians reading group he says online book clubs are one of the few places where people can have arguments on the internet and not break down into fury and rage. Ladies Lit Squad is a strong choice and Salon Book Club holds frequent ticketed events. If you are after something specific, the Goodreads community is also a great place to start.
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Nature Walks And Bike Riding
Another low-risk outside activity is going on a nature walk and/or riding bikes with a friend. These activities allow for social distancing and can be a lot of fun. Depending on your childs age, adult supervision is likely necessary. Either way, you will want to be sure all parties agree on COVID-19 safety measures before getting together.
It Can Be Especially Hard To Reach Out To People With Coronavirus In The Backgroundheres How To Clear Those Social Hurdles
When Catherine Dorman packed up her Chicago apartment to start a remote job in Washington, D.C., in May, it was hard to make friends. Nearly everyone the 25-year-old knew who lived there had left the city to be with their families. Bars, gyms and art classes werent options anymore. Most of the face-to-face interactions she has had in the past four months have been with her two rescue cats, Stevie and Louise.
I just dont even know where to begin because of how locked down everything is, Ms. Dorman says.
It was hard for Catherine Dorman to make friends when she moved for a remote job in May. Her cat, Louise, keeps her company.
Twenty-two percent of U.S. adults said that they either moved or know someone who did due to the pandemic, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in July. As employees relocate for work and some schools reopen campuses for the fall semester, finding and making friends can be harder than usual.
Everyone seems to be cocooning themselves at home and everyone is fearful of going out, so a lot of the more natural, organic ways that we might meet people have been reduced, clinical psychologist Dr. Miriam Kirmayer says.
At a time when many are keeping their distance, having friends can offset the negative consequences of loneliness, including depression and anxiety, says Dr. Kirmayer, whose studies focus on friendship and connection. Heres how you can make friends these days when you dont know anyone.
Dont fear making the first move
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If Your Child Is Lonely Or Depressed
Some children have found these alternative ways of connecting with their friends easier than others. For children who are very young, new to a particular area, have special needs, or experience social anxiety, video chatting may not feel easy or enjoyable. Dont pressure your child to do something that they dont feel comfortable doing.
Keep in mind that some children are fine with simply playing with siblings, playing with parents, or playing alone. Again, the pandemic isnt forever, and if your child is coping fine without frequent social interactions, thats okay too. They will learn to adapt when its safe to socialize normally again.
However, if your child is very lonely or exhibiting signs of depression resulting from social isolation, its vital to take this seriously and speak to your childs pediatrician, school counselor, or child therapist. Simply having an open, non-judgmental conversation with your child about their feelings, worries, and fears can be helpful too.
A few days of grumpiness or acting out is normal. But if your child is showing sustained signs of disturbance or is having trouble functioning on a day-to-day basis, thats when you should strongly consider getting professional help for your childs mental health. Some signs of anxiety that might warrant further attention include:
- Fear of certain places where there are other people
- Fear about the future or of bad things happening
- Rapid breathing or heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
Change In Number Of Friends
Using a peer nomination procedure, participants listed the names of their good friends at each time point. The number of friends participants named prior to COVID-19 was subtracted from the number of friends they named during the pandemic, with positive values indicating an increase in friendships during COVID-19 and negative values indicating a decrease in friendships from before to during the pandemic.
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Change In Friendship Quality
For each friend nominated, participants responded to three items capturing support: This friend helps me feel better when Im upset, This friend sticks up for me/has my back, I can talk to this friend about planning for the future. Responses to the three items ranged from 1 to 3 and were averaged within and across all nominated friends post-high school and during the pandemic . The quality of participants friendship network prior to the pandemic was subtracted from average friendship quality during COVID-19, such that positive values indicate better, and negative values indicate poorer, friendship quality during relative to before the pandemic.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Things To Know
Some mask mandates ending.Several states in liberal-leaning parts of the U.S. are quickly moving away from mask requirements as the Omicron wave recedes, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was not ready to change its guidance in regards to masks.
Unvaccinated city workers.New York City is expected to fire up to 3,000 municipal workers, including police officers, firefighters and teachers, on Feb. 11 for refusing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus possibly the largest worker reduction in the nation tied to a vaccine mandate.
Around the world.Blockades at the U.S.-Canada border, a spillover from protests in Ottawa against vaccine mandates, are disrupting production at major car companies. In Britain, Prince Charles tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time.
Ms. Sow added: The stating of intentions is the first place to start. In this pandemic moment, I think that is also really important to remember because so many people feel lonely and so many people feel overwhelmed and so many people feel scared.
This means setting aside time to have conversations about how much friendship youre looking for whether a mere running buddy or a BFF while still allowing for the relationship to evolve. Talking about the Covid-19-related precautions youre each taking can also make any in-person meet-ups more comfortable.
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Respect Personal Physical Space
You might be used to greeting a friend with a hug, but hold off for now . Every culture has its norm about whats the right physical proximity to someone else standing next to them, Hojjat says. South Americans like a closer contact and some Europeans like a larger distance and the U.S. was right in the middle before the pandemic not too close and not too far away. But now most people will likely want to stand a little further apart.
Evaluate Your Child’s Risk
Highly effective vaccines, lockdown measures, and improved understanding of the disease have made gathering together much safer. However, each family will need to consider their specific risk and comfort level when deciding which social activities to allow.
If all members of your family who are 12 and up are vaccinated, you may feel very safe having in-person get-togethers. Low infection rates in your local area may bolster your confidence in child get-togethers as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated individuals can largely return to their pre-pandemic lifestyle, behaviors, and activities.
However, if your child isn’t vaccinated, you may not be comfortable with inside gatherings yet, particularly if you or those in your inner circle are not vaccinated or have health factors that make catching the coronavirus more dangerous. These are personal decisions and there is no right or wrong on how careful you feel you need to be. If you aren’t sure about your family’s risk, reach out to your doctor.
They can help you work through your concerns and offer recommendations on what is safe for your child. You’ll also want to consider the mental health toll for your child of not seeing friends.
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Icular Groups Were More Vulnerable To Losing Friends
Patulny and colleague Marlee Bower from the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney have surveyed more than 2,000 Australians over the past two years to capture a collective picture of peoples interactions, lifestyles and plans during and after lockdown. Given Australias early, if temporary, exit from lockdown last year, it offers a unique glimpse not just about Australians experience during lockdown but importantly, and pertinently, many months post-lockdown.
Some key findings came out of the study, says Patulny. Social networks have become more insular and bonding-oriented, plus particular groups of people were more vulnerable to losing friends, including singles, or those with social anxiety, physical and mental disabilities anyone lacking prior social capital. Then there were the people who were caught at major intersections of their life journey think finishing school/starting uni/having kids they could be more vulnerable to long-term disconnection and loneliness.
Like Bryan with his child starting school, Reggie was unlucky enough to be hovering at a life intersection when the pandemic hit. She completed year 12 in 2020. The opportunity to make or cement friendships has been curtailed especially severely for young people. The fear that we have missed out on so much Makes me want to be in a million places at one time, she says.
Use Technology But Dig Deeper
A great starting point is technology. Through apps like GroupMe or online gaming platforms, you can begin creating connections with people and having shared positive experiences.
Its not just information exchanged through an interview. You have to actually have fun together, Prinstein said. When you both share the same moment of fun, that creates the bonding.
This only goes so far, he warned. Youre likely only scratching the top layer of a persons very curated surface and only building superficial connections, not substantial ones that can grow into friendships.
The key, Prinstein said, is using those initial virtual connections to learn more about the real person. The direct messages should turn into phone calls and then into video chats to create more opportunities to really get to know a person even when you cant necessarily be together in-person.
Youre connecting based on the information theyre choosing to provide to you, he said. Everyone knows thats not the real person behind the profile, however. Its a curated version of who they are. It is hard to form the real connections because in real life, we hang out with people, we see them do awkward and stupid things and we get to know them warts and all.
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Tips On Making Friends
4 minute watch
The five tips to help you build meaningful relationships during the pandemic are: challenge yourself, find your interests, connect through social media, invest in existing relationships, and give yourself time.
Students from Kings College London share their tips for making friends at university.
This video was created by Positive Peers, who are KCLSU Wellbeing peer supporters trained through Student Minds to support the mental health and wellbeing of fellow students. Through creating student-only spaces where students can support and learn from each other, the Positive Peers help their peers to thrive.
Friendships: Quantity Quality And Connecting During The Pandemic
The unusual social conditions of the pandemic may have changed friendships. It has been hypothesized that during the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals became more selective with whom they maintained friendships and only strong ties survived . However, when a group of college students experiencing pandemic-related lockdowns was compared to an earlier cohort in Switzerland, no differences were found in friendship network size . An interview study of American college students , in turn, suggested that there was continuity in relational closeness with friends during the first fall of the pandemic . During the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong, there was evidence for subjective wellbeing being protected by improved community closeness among adults . Thus, the limited data at this point do not support greater selectivity of friends or decline in relationship quality, at least among college students. Instead, the shared threat of a pandemic may help foster greater sense of connection.
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Home Goods: Diy Soap And Candle Making
During one online event, Danelle Go made a candle using soy wax, flower petals and essential oils.
Go has always been a fan of arts and crafts. That made it easy for the do-it-yourself devotee to gravitate to hands-on activities like knitting a blanket and making her own candles and soap.
Ive never actually done that before, she says. It really exposed me to things I might not have done on my own. Its a de-stresser, too. I am able to sit down with fellow students and do a craft together and meet random people.
She sees that as one advantage of virtual events at USC bringing together students from different programs and backgrounds who otherwise wouldnt cross paths. There is that community-building aspect intertwined with being able to de-stress and help with our mental health.
Using Social Media To Combat Depression And Isolation
According to the National Health Council, depression and anxiety rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed since the pandemic began. Suicide rates and suicide attempts have also increased. The lockdown has no doubt negatively impacted people’s mental health and poses serious risks.
College students can use social apps like Bumble BFF to get to know others in their area.
A friend of mine from high school recommended using Instagram, for example, as a way to talk to people. She said she’s made friends she regularly stays in touch with through the app. College students can also use social apps like Bumble BFF to get to know others in their area. I myself have been able to connect with some of my peers through this app.
While social media offers a convenient way to connect with others during the pandemic, it’s important to remember that too much time spent on social media has been found to exacerbate and lead to depression. According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, those who use social media more frequently are 2.7 times more likely to be depressed.
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Find A Peer Support Group
You may feel most comfortable starting with a group that allows you to use your experience to help others. This can range from something structured, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, to something based around a hobby, such as the Mens Shed Association. Some support groups can still meet in person, providing they adhere to Covid-secure regulations. Another option is to locate an online group. Buckley says: Minds peer-support community, Side by Side, is a place where you can share your experiences and hear from others who may be going through the same thing.