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Staying connected with friends and family during COVID-19

Meera Phull, Clinical Collaboration Lead, Bupa Group Clinical
01 April 2020

For human beings, having good friendships, relationships and social connections plays an important part in looking after our wellbeing. With self-isolation and social-distancing measures in place, we can really start to feel the loss of human contact. This can have a negative impact on our mood. So in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we stay connected with our loved ones – albeit while maintaining distance.

Here I’ll look at some of the ways you can keep in touch during this time, and share what others say has worked for them.


Get creative

The current situation is making us seek out new ways to stay connected, keep our spirits up and help one another through these unprecedented times. You can get involved in lots of ways – both big and small. And one of our biggest allies here is technology.

Have virtual meet ups with friends and family

In the absence of being able to see your friends and family in person, a video call could help to bridge the gap. Scheduling a regular catch-up can give you both something to look forward to and helps to add structure to your day.

  • Make the most of video calling, whether that’s with Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime or various other methods that are available.
  • It might also help to put up photos of friends and family around you too.

Natalie shared how video calls have been working for her and her Mum, who lives alone and in a different part of the country. “I’m phoning my Mum via WhatsApp video – something we haven’t really thought to do before. And I know that when this is all over, we’ll continue to video call – it’s really nice to see each other and have a cup of tea and a chat. For my Mum, seeing another person on her screen also helps her to feel like she’s not alone.”

Take time to talk

It’s natural to feel a range of emotions at the moment. Sharing how you’re feeling with each other can help you to better understand and manage the way you feel. By talking about your feelings, you might find you’re able to share different ways of thinking about things and gain a different perspective. You might also feel less alone in how you feel and gain useful advice from people you trust.

  • Check in on friends and family at set times of the day. The mornings might be a good time for this if you find it particularly tough waking up to the reality of the situation.
  • Starting your day chatting to a friend or loved one can put you in a positive mood.
  • Talk about coronavirus if you want to, but also agree to talk about other things too.

Listen to each other

It’s equally important to listen to one another. You can provide a lot of comfort by listening with compassion and understanding.

  • Remember to give each other space to talk.
  • Try not to jump in or offer a solution too quickly.

Online activities

During difficult times, it’s also good to have some light relief to talk and laugh about, and to share other things too. Use technology to get creative.

  • From virtual pop quizzes, to live streamed yoga classes and online after work drinks – the possibilities are endless.
  • Set up a coffee and cake catch-up, or a dinner date.
  • Play games such as video games, boardgames and charades online with your friends too.

Have a movie night

Even though you can’t go to the cinema or invite friends around to watch a film, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a movie night together.

  • Have a Netflix Party – it’s a plug-in that allows you to stream the film at the same time, and pause it if you need to. It also has a chat window so you can all chip in and chat while you’re watching.
  • Or start a film at the same time and have a shared WhatsApp group for everyone to comment in.

This can really give a sense of occasion to a Friday night!

Join or create a virtual book club

Many people have found the Twitter community a place of comfort and connection. For example, people coming together to join a virtual book club.

When she’s not busy keeping connected by video chatting with her Mum, Natalie also reports: “I have joined a Twitter book club to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. What I like most about it is that I don’t personally know the other readers in the group, but it’s really nice to join together and feel a sense of community”.

Listen to the radio

To hear the voice of a friendly and familiar presenter can be particularly comforting if you’re on your own. And knowing that lots of other people are out there listening along too can help foster a sense of wider social connection.

You may get the same comfort from listening to podcasts or audiobooks.

Share the simple pleasures

In this time of uncertainty and worry, lots of people find connection by sharing the small and simple pleasures of life. For example, send each other:

  • links to music
  • uplifting photos
  • snaps of what you’re getting up to at home
  • funny memes, jokes and videos

These can all help keep that sense of togetherness that we all need right now.

Natalie recalls: “My Mum sent me a photo of toilet roll earrings. I was having a bit of a wobbly moment and getting this really made me smile.”

If you’re feeling lonely and isolated

Not everyone may have someone to call regularly. If you’re older and on your own and would like to talk to someone, Age UK has a number you can call for a chat on 0800 169 65 65. Here are some other organisations that may help.

  • The Samaritans are there to support you if you’re struggling. You can contact them via phone or email, and their website has lots of helpful resources.
  • Relate is another resource you may want to turn to for relationship worries.
  • Citizen’s Advice has information on organisations that can offer help and support for domestic abuse.
Meera Phull
Meera Phull, Clinical Collaboration Lead, Bupa Group Clinical

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    • Coronavirus and your wellbeing. Mind. www.mind.org.uk, accessed 25 March 2020
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    • If you're worried about your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. The Samaritans. www.samaritans.org, accessed 25 March 2020
    • A connected society. A strategy for tackling loneliness – laying the foundations for change. HM Government. www.gov.uk, published October 2018
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    • Social connections and the brain. Age UK. www.ageuk.org.uk, last updated March 2019

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