Two-part series: Your pandemic mental health – keeping friendships together while staying apart
Part 1: The New Art of Virtual Conversation – supporting others, and yourself
Just how devastating has the pandemic been to friendships? Research is ongoing, but anecdotally we’ve all seen a distance forming between our more distant social circles outside of our friends and families.
You might miss them more than you think, those casual friends you used to cross paths with at the gym, coffee shop, and many other spots that no longer play a part in your daily routines because of the health and safety concerns in the COVID-19 era.
With so few opportunities for human exchanges outside of work and family life, busy physicians and other healthcare workers are spending long hours at their offices, clinics and hospitals should prioritize meaningful exchanges with their closest friends to avoid feeling this loss even more acutely.
It’s a critical component to your mental health, which is just as important as physical health given such an uncertain future for members of the healthcare industry.
Making time for yourself can be difficult, so finding ways to trim your workload is essential. Consider out sourcing your transcription to a trusted and reliable medical transcription service can be an easy and rewarding delegation that can afford you more time, both personal and professional, to focus on your friendships and keep your outlook positive.
Places like the Canadian Medical Association have online supports, touching on everything from compassion fatigue to moral distress, but honest conversations within important existing friendships can help keep you coping – the key word here being honest.
People are programmed to give basic responses to the usual questions that start conversations. Even though some of us might not really be doing well at the moment, the reflex response for the instinctual opening, “How are you doing?”, is “Fine.” So instead of asking questions you probably already know the answers to, try starting asking new ones. Think of questions that show a genuine concern and promote a healthy conversation about how your family and friends are really doing.
The same goes for your patients. Ask them what’s on their mind or how they are coping or “How are things this year compared to this time last year?” and see where the conversation goes.
A New York Times article offers some real insight into how to deepen a friendship even with distance (true distance or just the physical variety) through a few simple tactics – even if the relationship has been a bit strained because of potential differences in values, beliefs or actions brought out by the pandemic.
- Reach out and make contact even if you haven’t talked recently.
- Express gratitude for your friendship – which could help strengthen your bond (as well as the potential for reciprocation).
- Don’t take it personally if someone isn’t available to talk, even at a time when humans barely leave home. We just don’t know what ‘space’ other people are in during these pandemic days.
Diving a bit deeper into conversation itself, suzystories.com offers some ways to be supportive when separated – starting with being an effective listener, asking questions, expressing gratitude and allowing room for sadness and vulnerability. And hopefully a friend or family member will reach out to you too! Perhaps sharing this article with them might be a good place to start some good conversations.
We’ll explore some specific ways to connect in the next part of this series, Game on – Fun Ways to Feel the Old Connection with Friends, but don’t be afraid to take the first step in rekindling or catching up on an old friendship, and really listen to them when you do – even if you find yourself starting off with the standard pleasantries.
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