Dolphins work together to move fish toward the shore, making them easy prey. Elephants communicate with each other, saying things that translate to "Let's go" and "Help, I'm lost." Penguins huddle together for warmth and even move around in the same direction to retain that warmth.
Many species of animals rely on one another for safety and support — including human beings. Humans are incredibly social creatures, and we've built a complex society where we rely on one another for food, housing, and even emotional comfort.
While it's human nature to seek help from one another, social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has made that a little more challenging. As a result, many people are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, isolated, and stressed.
People around the country are being advised to remain at home and away from others to keep everyone safe. This physical isolation can lead to social isolation, which can be damaging both mentally and physically.
In addition to prioritizing your own mental health, your loved ones may need some extra support, too. Here's what you should know about checking in on your loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Who Should I Be Checking in On During the Pandemic?
COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone. How you respond to this stress depends on a variety of factors, including your social support, financial situation, health, and emotional background. Anyone can encounter difficulties navigating a pandemic and the adjustments necessary to curb the spread.
However, there are certain groups of people that are more likely to experience high levels of stress during a pandemic — and they may need some extra support. These groups include but are not limited to people who:
- Have a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, heart failure, or obesity
- Are caregivers for their own loved ones
- Are frontline workers, including healthcare providers and first responders
- Are essential workers, such as grocery store employees or postal workers
- Have existing mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder
- Have lost a job or experienced a reduction in work hours
- Have a disability, such as limited mobility, trouble understanding information, or difficulty communicating symptoms of illness
- Live alone or in rural areas
- Are homeless
- Live in group settings, such as transitional housing or domestic violence shelters
Additionally, people in certain racial and ethnic groups, including Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color, are at an increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. This may be partially due to factors such as poverty and healthcare access. This disproportion, on top of the civil unrest that has occurred this year, may put their mental health even more at risk right now.
While these groups may require additional assistance at the moment, everyone can benefit from a kind gesture now and then. Here are 5 tips to get started:
1. Overcome Zoom fatigue. Video chats are actually a great way to stay connected with your loved ones.
For the time being, limiting face-to-face contact with those outside your household is key to curbing the spread of COVID-19. As a result, video chat has become a great alternative that allows you to connect with others safely. Though some people have reported feeling tired or burned out by constant video chats, they remain a beneficial way to socialize.
Video chats can create a stronger connection than a traditional phone call, partially because they allow for virtual eye contact, which is an important aspect of social connection. Additionally, by seeing one another's faces, you can express caring and empathy — both of which can provide a much-needed boost to your loved one's well-being.
Whether you call a cousin, a neighbor, or a long-time friend, simply reaching out to them can help them feel supported. Be sure to send them a quick text message beforehand to make sure they're available, and consider scheduling time for a video call to make sure they're not caught off-guard.
2. Do something together (virtually).
The days of joining someone for an exercise class, a cup of coffee, or a nice dinner feel like ages ago. But just because meeting up in person can be unsafe doesn't mean you can't engage in activities virtually, instead.
Ask your loved one to join you for a virtual activity, such as cooking the same dinner together or playing an online game. Or, ask them to join you for a virtual exercise class, such as yoga, meditation, or Zumba, which can relieve feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. Plus, you can forge a stronger connection with one another as you both struggle with that same yoga pose or dance move.
3. Ask your loved one how you can help them.
It can be challenging to ask someone else for help — so don't wait to be asked. Call up your loved one and see what they need from you. Let them know some ways you can help them, such as:
- Picking up their groceries
- Cooking them a nutritious meal (bonus if they make good leftovers for the next day)
- Bringing them a mask, hand sanitizer, medication, or other essential supplies
- Shoveling their driveway
- Walking their dog
- Helping them get used to their technology
There are plenty of ways to help your loved one without ever putting them or yourself at risk of getting COVID-19. From small gestures to major projects, these acts of kindness can make your loved one feel supported and seen.
4. Be a good listener.
Communication is a two-way street, and being listened to is a critical part of feeling cared for. Not only is this critical to understand what they actually need from you, but they may also simply need someone to vent to.
People around the country are concerned not only for their own lives but also the lives of their loved ones. They may know someone who has experienced severe illness from COVID-19, or they may have lost friends or family. Simply listening, validating their feelings, and being there for them as they experience sadness, stress, or anxiety can go a long way in helping your loved one cope.
5. Reach out to other support systems, if necessary.
Depending on what your loved one needs right now, you may not be able to support them on your own. Just as it's important to know when to reach out to them, it's also crucial to know when to encourage them to reach out to other support systems, such as:
If you feel comfortable doing so, offer to help them make these appointments — many of which can be done virtually — or phone calls.
Additionally, whether during a pandemic or otherwise, call 911 if you feel that your loved one's immediate safety is in danger.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming for everyone. As you remain physically distant from others, make sure to stay socially connected. Check in on your loved ones from time to time, even if it's just to say "hi" or "I'm here for you." Small gestures can have a major impact, both during this pandemic and when it's long behind us.
Do you have questions about how you can support your loved ones during COVID-19? Call 610-431-5000 to speak to a healthcare provider at Chester County Hospital.
Related Information from Chester County Hospital: