Like everywhere else in the world, Hawaii has felt the impact of COVID-19. At the time of this writing, COVID-19 has taken the lives of 152 of our residents. It has upended our economy, and worse, it has mercilessly kept us from connecting with others. Practicing social distancing, though completely warranted, is difficult in a culture that is all about connecting. Oahu, ironically also known as the “Gathering Place,” has felt the brunt of the stay-at-home measures and the strict rules that impede our ability to gather. And, Hawaii is all about gathering. Celebrating. Connecting.
So, what do we do when we can’t gather? When we can’t connect with each other? First, it’s important to understand how vital connection is to our psyches. We are designed to connect. Connecting with others plays a vital role in our mental and emotional health and our overall well-being. So, understanding and recognizing the importance of connection is the first step. The second step is to put into practice some helpful tips that will help you to stay mentally and emotionally healthy and connected during this time of social isolation.
Here are just a few suggestions from renowned psychologist, Dr. Henry Cloud:
- Communicate often
- Talk with others how this is affecting them — don’t fear getting personal
- Share with each other about effective coping mechanisms
- Get creative to connect virtually and often — make it fun!
- Recreate new structures and routines!
- Practice mindfulness; take unhelpful thoughts captive
- Instill a gratitude practice
- Actively engage in what you have control over
- Practice communication that is simple, clear, honest, and compassionate
There are many other practical steps you can incorporate into your daily practices, but the key is to communicate often and to stay connected. Facetime, Zoom, virtual hangouts, texting, and telephone calls all go a long way to connecting with those who matter to you. Having a regular routine and adding structure to your day will give you a sense of control and normalcy, which will increase your emotional health. And, when you are emotionally healthy, your connections with others will be healthier. Happier.
Yes, this is challenging, especially in a place like Hawaii, where gathering is second nature, and connection is so natural. But, in spite of COVID-19 and social distancing, we remain connected. We are ohana. Our island home, our lifestyle, and our culture connects us. Always. We will gather again soon, and we will do so with an even greater appreciation of the meaning of aloha.