Isolation Guide #5: Connected “Alone Together”

Isolation Guide #5: Social UWB and Connected “Alone Together”

Learn to live alone together and create a better world

“There is an underlying force in the workings of human relationships that can make or break our destiny as humans, even at work. If we don’t build work relationships with intention and care, it’s only a matter of time that businesses will cease to exist. What we need to get through this pandemic right now is collaboration, co-creation and most importantly compassion.” 

Carine Bouery (Workforce Relationship Consultant)

Isolation is anti-social by definition––right? Not if we re-define isolation through a lens of wellbeing. In principle #5 of UWB – Ultimate Well Being. The social component is imperative to your happiness and it could be your #1 reason for happiness. A Harvard study came to this conclusion.

Try Being ‘Alone Together’:

Stay connected.

Be extra patient with interpersonal difficulties.

Be present for children’s feelings and questions.

Understand emotional contagion.

Connect with Strangers

Try not to cling too hard to your views.

Cultivate loving-kindness.

Like me, I’m sure you’ve seen messages of solidarity rippling across the airwaves. Throughout Europe, people sing to each other to keep spirits up. In the United Kingdom, a government call for volunteers to support the National Health Service had more than half a million respondents – over double their initial 250,000-person target. In Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Brazil and the United States, there is a daily moment set aside to applaud health workers. In my neighborhood, every night at 7 PM, raucous groups play music, ring bells, and cheer for essential service people risking their lives on the front lines. 

The best phrase I’ve heard to describe the diversity and vibrancy of these expressions of solidarity is “alone together.” Rather than thinking of the language as oxymoronic, I encourage you to pursue a mindset shift––one that centers the creativity and resiliency of ourselves and those around us.

Stay Connected

Don’t allow yourself to sink deeper into isolation by withdrawing from loved ones. Maintain close, positive connections through any form of communication that’s comfortable and available to you, such as calls, texts, emails and video-chat. You may be surprised how a few meaningful remote interactions can make you feel “social” despite having been alone all day! And now is a great time to reach out to those you’ve wanted to catch up with but never had time. 

Be Extra Patient with Interpersonal Difficulties

These are tense times and being in isolation without the comfort of normalcy can make our feelings and relations hard to manage. At the same time, we need each other’s support and understanding now more than ever. When conflicts arise, whether directly because of current events or just flareups of ongoing issues, try to give extra space to the feelings of everyone involved, including yourself. Come back to a place of tolerance, acceptance and compassion by reflecting on how this is difficult for all of us, and we are doing the best we can. If you are too upset to find love and understanding for the other person, at least reserve a healthy distance rather than lashing out. Wait patiently until things calm down before expressing your feelings constructively. Be extra gentle with children whose behavioral issues might be expressions of stress. They need your love and reassurance right now more than the strong arm. 

Connect with Strangers

We are going to have to step outside our homes, workplaces and get involved in other community activities. Acknowledge people, look them in the eye and smile. It will help you and them. There are studies on how connecting to strangers can help you feel less lonely. I learned this in traveling the world.

Be Present for Children’s Feelings and Questions

Little people are affected by this too, and not just in terms of school closures. They take in and process everything happening around them, and naturally they have concerns. Don’t just brush these aside! Address them simply, directly and honestly. But also don’t bombard them with extra information, particularly not negative news. Avoid discussing the most disturbing issues within earshot of children. Instead, focus on engaging with them at the level of cuddling, play, reading together, or whatever helps them feel happy and secure. You can also set up virtual play-dates and story-times with their friends and family on video-chat.

Understand Emotional Contagion & Spread of Negativity

In this unprecedented global crisis, we are facing a problem that affects all of us at once. But sometimes instead of bringing a positive sense of connectedness, it can mean being together in a collective state of negativity that spreads faster than the virus itself. Humans are hard-wired for social life, we take in and respond to emotional cues at a subliminal level often without even being aware of it. If someone is angry, we become angry too. If they smile, we smile back. If they breed fear and hostility, it’s easy to fall into that trap. Protect yourself against emotional contagion by being aware of it and knowing how it affects you. Then you can be more intentional about the information sources you expose yourself to and the conversations you participate in. Steeping yourself exclusively in a certain “side” while blocking out other points of view is going to make everything more heightened and extreme. Lastly, you should be aware of—and perhaps limit—the amount that you voice your own worries, fears and other negative feelings. Don’t suppress them, just be careful not to harp on them excessively and infect other people with this contagion. 

Try Not to Cling Too Hard to Your Views

This is a completely unique situation that has no historical counterpart to reference, which means there is a lot we don’t know. In the face of such uncertainty—a very uncomfortable feeling that our brains interpret as danger—one common response is to latch onto a particular “truth” as a way to make things feel more definite. But this also has its downside. There are so many opinions, projections, theories and beliefs going around right now. Clinging to any of them too rigidly at the expense of all other points of view means risking additional conflict in an already difficult and tense situation. When people you interact with voice their views, it’s fine to disagree or even dissent within the broader context of society. But arguing or not giving others space to feel the way they do is going to put you at odds when what we really need right now is each other’s support. Try to keep an open mind by questioning your own views and understanding that in many ways the outcome is still unknown so there is no point attaching too strongly to a single truth. 

Cultivate Universal Loving-Kindness 

Life can be so overwhelming. At the micro-level, it may be extra hard getting along with those close to you. At the macro-level, you might feel burdened by the weight of human suffering. A good remedy in both cases is compassion, loving-kindness, and deep wishes of goodwill towards all beings. The practice of loving-kindness is a soothing balm that keeps our relationships wholesome and calms the anxiety and sorrow we feel around events that we have no control over. Spend a few minutes each day cultivating loving-kindness within yourself, extending it to loved ones and spreading it over the entire world—in time you will see what a powerful effect it has. 

Check back next week for our Isolation Guide Part Six on Spiritual Well-being!

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