Practice Social Distancing with Emotional Closeness

By Leslie Eslinger

How to Practice Social Distancing with Emotional Closeness

Is social distancing an oxymoron? Can we have the positive benefits of social activities without the closeness? Can we still show our humanity while being asked to stay apart?

What exactly is social distancing? Epidemiologists define it as an intentional effort to reduce close contact between people in a conscious effort to stop or reduce the transmission of a contagious disease.

What is emotional closeness? I’m creating a definition as I write this. Please let us know what it means to you. For me, it’s an encounter or a relationship that gives me that warm, fuzzy, cared-for feeling. It doesn’t require physical closeness but depends on two or more people feeling understood, heard, and supported during the best of times and the worst of times.

Here’s our shortlist of ideas to simultaneously increase your social distancing and your emotional closeness with students, friends, loved ones, and even yourself!

Visual Contact

Whether it’s Facetime, Google Duo, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp or something different, use it with a clear intention.

With permission from families and school administrators, schedule a time to have one on one chats with students. The purpose of these chats is to let your students know: you’re thinking about them, you’re interested to hear how they’re spending their time (this is not the time to ask if they’ve completed all their assignments), you want to know what’s on their minds, there’s no hidden agenda on these calls. It’s merely a way to, “reach out and touch someone!”

Handwritten Notes

Remember them? For young children, send hand-drawn pictures of something you like to do together. For friends, family or older students, send letters that might become the historical documentation of what happened during the 2020 Pandemic. Too impatient for the postal service? Take a picture of your letters and drawings and send them digitally. 

Dinner with Friends

Adult-to-adult contact should not be neglected. If we can have virtual doctors, why can’t we have virtual social events? Since many of us are not dining out or gathering with friends at our homes, how do we mimic the feeling a fun, social outing? Set a time with your friends or loved ones for a virtual dinner date. If you have access to a visual app (Facetime, Google Duo, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp), dial-up at dinner time and pass the butter!

Mindful Coffee Breaks

So, we’re avoiding physical closeness, trying to reduce our anxiety levels, and still wanting our coffee time. Try this: Pour that cup of coffee, find a quiet place to sit, and practice a mindful moment. First, wrap your hands around your mug. Feel the warmth. It’s not exactly the same as a human hug, but it’s a comforting act. Next, breathe in the aroma. When’s the last time, you fully smelled the coffee (like the Folger’s commercials told us to do)? Take the first sip, imagine you’re in that coffee commercial. Make sure your enjoyment shows all over your face. If it fails, you might need to change your coffee brand!

How are you practicing emotional closeness while also social distancing? We'd LOVE to hear from you!

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