I get by with a little help from my friends: Maintaining friendships during quarantine
Although we’re all socially distanced, that doesn’t mean we’re ever truly alone
Sep 15, 2020
As an avowed extrovert, this pandemic is an absolute nightmare. Instead of being out and about, I’m confined to the same four walls every day with virtually no escape. The e-numans and game nights of early quarantine have lost their charm, and we’re all left in this weird lull where things are going too slow and too fast at the same time.
At some point in quarantine, I completely disappeared. My mental health took a bit of a dive and I felt like Tom Hanks in that one movie where he talks to a volleyball (yes, I’m talking about “Cast Away”). I was online, but I wasn’t talking to anyone. Responding to messages wasn’t a thing for me at all and video calls were completely out of the question. My social butterfly tendencies basically whittled down to zero and I unknowingly turned into a onesie-clad hermit.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, one of the reasons I was feeling subpar was because I wasn’t talking to my friends. What I initially considered a byproduct of quarantine woes (a lack of human connection) was one of the main reasons I felt so trapped.
According to research, losing friendships can actually lead to both physical and mental health issues. The study’s abstract literally says, “Social isolation of otherwise healthy, well-functioning individuals eventually results in psychological and physical disintegration, and even death.”
In the era of ultimate social isolation, we all need a little help from our friends, especially when everyone’s top priority right now is being healthy.
When it comes to most things, the first step is always the hardest. When I hit the climax of my quarantine blues, my friends were the ones who reached out. I didn’t know it at that time, but answering their messages would help me out of the hole I was in.
Quarantine has a way of exhausting us that makes even the simplest tasks seem impossible. Rather than talking to friends after the work day is done, a lot of us would rather turn on a show and turn off our brain. This may work at first, but it could also set a precedent for inadvertently isolating yourself.
Taking the first step by either reaching out or responding to your friends is arguably the most important thing you can do to maintain friendships. It doesn’t need to be an in-depth conversation about how terrible dating in quarantine is or planning out the next huge life change. It could be little things, like sending a funny post that reminded you of them, or just sending back a sticker as a response.
Again, it doesn’t have to be big. It just has to happen.
Keep in touch (and mean it)
If there’s one little white lie we’ve all told, it’s probably promising to keep in touch. Be it busy schedules or other factors, growing up means losing friends along the way. In a study about social behavior through the human life cycle, people apparently have the most friends and social connections around the age of 25, and then adulthood and shifting priorities condense the number of people on our favorite contacts list.
We all have different types of friends. There are brunch friends, work friends, drinks friends, niche hobby friends and friends we know we want to keep in our lives forever. Every relationship—be it familial, romantic or platonic—demands a certain amount of effort. If keeping someone a friend is important, that means putting in the work.
These days, everyone’s a little lonely. If a promise to keep in touch has been made, don’t let it become a platitude. We all need other people to keep sane, and keeping in touch can definitely help with that.
A basic tenet of friendship is being there for your friends. We’re all living in tough times, which makes this even more important (and difficult). Everyone is dealing with different sorts of things, which can range from the mundane or the extreme. To me, coming through is the lifeblood that sustains friendships.
I have friends that I haven’t seen in years, but I know that they’d pick up the phone if I called them. On the flip side, I also have friends who I’m not as close to as before, but they’re definitely invited to my future wedding (if I find the right person to put at the end of the aisle).
Friendships aren’t just about talking every day or sending memes, it’s about being there for another person no matter how difficult or wonderful things may be. As human beings, we’re suckers for reassurance. The most reassuring thing you can do for someone is being there, especially when it matters—even if it’s just virtually.
Check (on) yourself
Maintaining friendships may help us live longer, we need to make sure to take care of ourselves, too. Something people don’t usually talk about is setting boundaries in friendships. Setting boundaries and expectations are key when it comes to every type of relationship, which is why I never understood why they were mostly reserved for relationships of the romantic nature.
There isn’t a one size fits all solution for setting the right boundaries and expectations with friends, but knowing that you need to set them is a step in the right direction. One of the best things I learned from my therapist is when it comes to friends, you can only do so much. This especially rings true during the hard times.
No matter how much you want to help other people, the rest is ultimately up to them. Yes, you may feel a little powerless that you weren’t able to help as much as you wanted, but we all have our limits. Understanding these limits are especially helpful if guilt kicks in.
We may not have an estimate for when it’s safe to physically see and hug the living daylights out of our friends, but at least keeping up with them isn’t as hard as E.T. trying to phone home. And as I always say, “Life is the longest, shortest thing we’ll ever experience.” Eat good food, talk to your friends and always be kind.
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