For most people, the pandemic and the lockdown has been a life-changing event.
It turned all our worlds upside down in the blink of an eye.
We are all forced to face a new normal which none of us could have predicted. A lot of people’s daily lives are entirely different from what they were before the pandemic. Professionals are now forced to work at home with little to no physical interaction with other people. Students now only see their classmates and peers through a computer screen. The little time we spend with people outside our homes is limited by social distancing. The amount of people I used to see and bond with regularly has been nearly zero. Among these bonds are even with strangers and passersby we encounter daily.
Simple interactions such as smiling at the cashier when I order my food at a fast food place were small things that made my day just a little bit better. Having these things taken away from me has been a toll that is becoming more obvious as the day goes by.
The effects of the pandemic on all of us may be different from one person to another, but it is there. These are all completely reasonable responses to the pandemic, given its nature. However, the effects of these on our mental health as well as our relationships are undeniable.
Socializing is not just something that makes us “happy.” Social connections with other people help form and shape our lives.
Multiple studies show that social connectedness and our relationships with other people affect our mental health and other aspects of our personalities. Sometimes we may not notice it but interacting with other people, forming relationships, and maintaining these relationships help us keep ourselves. Something so simple as looking forward to greeting your co-worker when you arrive at work or having a chat over coffee in the break room are situations we no longer experience in our new “normal” lives. We toil away for hours in front of our monitors and keyboards with barely any breaks in between; we jump from meeting to meeting, all this without a pause like cracking a joke with a friend. This is bound to heighten and increase our fatigue and even the likelihood of burning out.
It is vital to take our level of social connectedness into account when thinking about our mental health.
Given our current situation, physical activities such as meeting up with a friend to have dinner or going out of town with our “barkada” are out of the question. We can’t just give up and accept our fates and wait for everything to go back to normal before COVID happened. We need to try and at least buffer or minimize the effects of COVID on our relationships and connections with other people. A viable option for maintaining social connectedness would be through digital and virtual means. We are blessed to have been born in a generation where we need to talk to our friends or even see them using our phones and the internet. The ability to set time away from work and taking the time to connect or reconnect with friends and family is an invaluable experience we should not take for granted.
We have access to social media to keep up with our friends’ lives and keep in touch whenever we need to. Yes, hopping into a video call with a group of friends to talk to each other about your week is far from having dinner together, but it’s something that will remind us of the people around us and our relationships with them.
Boucher, E. M., McNaughton, E. C., Harake, N., Stafford, J. L., & Parks, A. C. (2021). The impact of a digital intervention (Happify) on loneliness during COVID-19: Qualitative focus group. JMIR Mental Health, 8(2), e26617. https://doi.org/10.2196/26617
Casagrande, M., Favieri, F., Tambelli, R., & Forte, G. (2020). The enemy who sealed the world: Effects quarantine due to the COVID-19 on sleep quality, anxiety, and psychological distress in the Italian population. Sleep Medicine, 75, 12–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2020.05.011
Lee, R. M., & Robbins, S. B. (1998). The relationship between social connectedness and
anxiety, self-esteem, and social identity. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45(3),