This has been a tough year, Covid-19, the Almeda fire, and now elections. Many of us are feeling agitated and fearful. Countless institutions that we expected to provide a sense of security and solidity are in disarray.
In times like this it’s easy to feel isolated, as the pandemic makes it more difficult, and quite frankly less fun to reach out to others. Alfred Einstein is quoted as saying “Adversity introduces a man to himself”. During these times we are seeing new aspects of ourselves as well as our friends.
I know that is true for myself as well as others I have visited with. Here are
tips to reduce your seclusion as winter approaches.
We are all sailing unchartered seas. Traditionally friendships grow when we have face to face interactions. Yet the importance of staying in touch with friends and family Through all of these challenges remains.
Friendships thrive when we have compatible values, although not requiring the same viewpoints or beliefs. Friendships are being put to the ‘stress test’, confronting issues that can fracture long-standing connections, such as mask-wearing, differing racial equity/justice viewpoints, political polarizations etc. Can you see these strains on any of your friendships?
Without regular in person contact it is easy to drift apart. However, there are steps you can take to keep connected.
Be proactive. You are not likely to randomly see friends about town or at the YMCA, or supermarket during Covid. Schedule time together.
Reconnect with past acquaintances. Comb through your contacts and make phone calls or connect electronically. Perhaps you and a friend can meet in a park utilizing masks and social distance guidelines.
Virtual visits to reach out. Don’t leave it to chance. Schedule regular video chat times. Some people are even eating dinner “together” via online conferencing.
Extend compassion. Ask how you can support a friend. Offer to do something specific, like ordering a meal on their behalf.
Express gratitude. Send a handwritten card telling your friend how much they mean to you.
Find Common Ground in Complex Charged Conversations.
Facts rarely change strong opinions. We find ‘facts’ to confirm our already existing biases. Don’t have your goal to change someone’s opinion,
Instead, deepen the relationship by finding areas of agreement and empathy. Listen carefully to what your friend is saying and why they believe that to be true. Don’t confuse your friend’s statements with ‘talking points’ you might have heard in mass media. Explore the reasons for their viewpoint. Focus on the relationship, not the policy implications.
Provide grace. People are struggling. Not everyone has the energy for social connection. Let friends know you’re here for them, when they have the time and strength to reconnect. Not taking offense, and giving them space, is also an act of grace. All friendships have rhythms of connection and disconnection.
What do you do to stay optimistic as you navigate through the ebb and flow of friendships during these troubled times? I’d love to hear your suggestions.
Call to mind your friends, one-by-one, and think of a specific way, using the suggestions above, to make each friendship stronger. Use the challenges of 2020 as steppingstones, not as stumbling blocks.
November 4, 2020, at noon, I’m live on YMCA Virtual Wellness Wednesday. We’ll discuss anxiety and focus on specific techniques to reduce your stress and feel better. This will be a positive future oriented discussion to bring more compassion and caring into our world.
*Pre-registration is required at https://ashlandymca.org/healthy-living/ OR call the front desk at 541.482.9622