Since March 2020 we have all been trying to cope with the difficulties brought on by COVID-19. People have been experiencing a range of emotions including fear, confusion, loneliness, anger, depression, and anxiety. The isolation that many people are experiencing due to the restrictions in place can lead to significantly distressing feelings of loneliness and symptoms of depression. Loneliness has been a common complaint across the spectrum of life circumstances and age ranges. Rates of depression and deaths by suicide have increased significantly since the pandemic began. This raises the question, how do we help others cope with the impact of COVID-19?
Here are some practical ideas on ways to help others cope with COVID-19.
Check-in. Make sure to regularly check in with people who are struggling. This can look like a phone call, text message, email, or socially distanced driveway visit. Just knowing that someone cares enough to ask how you are doing means a lot.
Connect. In addition to checking in, make sure to also be making a connection in a meaningful way. This can look like sharing a meal together, playing a game, having deeper and longer discussions.
Use different methods of communication. Make sure to use a variety of methods to contact someone who is struggling. Sometimes just texting is not enough. Scheduling video chats is a great way to fill some space on the calendar. When helping someone who is struggling, you can also include others in your chat in order for them to see more faces. Personally, I have become a fan of the app Marco Polo, which is a video messaging app. Marco Polo is a great option to video chat with someone without having to coordinate schedules.
Get creative. Send a letter, print and send pictures, play online games together, read a book together, watch a movie together. There are so many creative ways to help brighten someone’s day!
It’s the little things that matter. What is important to the person who is isolated and struggling? Let them know that you were thinking about them or were reminded of them in some way. You could take them their favorite meal or treat. You could send them a book or something small they might enjoy. Something small can go a long way in making someone feel special.
Encourage other people to join you. Ask other people to participate with you while you check-in, connect, communicate, and get creative! They may not realize that someone close to them could use some support and encouragement.
An example of this from my own life is my grandmother. She is living in a retirement community and the combination of her limited mobility and the community restrictions, she has not seen any family or friends since March 2020. As you can imagine, this is difficult for her as it would be for anyone. Something that I have done to help her cope is to send her a short video every day of what I am doing, then any additional pictures and videos that I may have taken that day. This takes only a few seconds of my day, and it makes a big difference in hers.
Additionally, research has clearly shown that helping others contributes to our own feelings of happiness and well being. This is going to be especially important for everyone as colder weather and the holidays are both right around the corner.
Lastly, if someone you know is struggling, encourage them to speak to a mental health professional!