Life without friends and family gatherings can take a lot of getting used to. But the message is clear - social distancing is one of the most effective ways that we can all work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep everyone safe.
It’s natural for people to feel more isolated than usual, particularly if you don’t live with many (or any) other people. If you’re feeling lonely – reach out! You will likely be doing the person on the other end a huge favour by making them feel considered. And once you get into the habit of regularly checking in with loved ones, take your connection one step further by having fun and getting a little more creative than a regular video or phone call.
Need inspiration? Take note of the creative ways you can connect with loved ones below:-
Write a Letter
There’s always something special about getting a hand-written note in the letterbox - the good old fashioned way! It takes time and effort these days to hand-write a personalised letter, address it, then send it in the mail. This is the sort of considerate gesture which is bound to lift the spirits of a lonely loved one - both distant and close. Physical letters are also a great way to stay connected with today's children of the digital age. They’ll love the novelty of seeing a letter in the post box with their name on it.
Your snail mail doesn’t have to be a multiple page letter either. If you’re unsure of what to write, pass on a simple compliment to merely say thank you for something, or make someone laugh with a joke. If you’re artistic, get creative by incorporating a little bit of calligraphy, a painting or an old photograph (memories of time together). It won’t take much to get someone excited about a letter in the mail that isn’t a bill. So, wash your hands, dust off your writing pads and get writing!
Make a Hamper or Care Package
Some family members may be struggling to get everything they need during this time. If you have the time, put together a care package to help them get by. It would be especially helpful if you purchased some sought-after staple items (or shared some of what you have) such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser, dry pasta, flour or rice. Hint: You could perhaps take it up by a notch by looking out for premium or diet specific food items for them.
If you’re missing a birthday or any other special occasion (hint: Easter), consider preparing a hamper or packing a small gift, some party snacks (or Easter hot cross buns), a party hat, and some decorations or flowers to spruce up their space and make their surroundings feel more festive.
If you’re a talented baker, whip up their favourite treat. Make sure you do save some for yourself so you can enjoy it together over a video call – you're very likely to get one after making such an effort.
We are very lucky to be housebound in a time where technology does such a great job of keeping us together. Many apps these days allow groups to video call each other at once. This means that you can see multiple familiar faces at once and converse in a group as if you were all in the same room.
If you and your family already have a group chat on Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp Messenger, then you can use the existing group to start a group video call. You can also use specialised apps such as Facetime, Skype, Zoom or Houseparty to host group calls – you'll just need to make sure everyone has an account set up (which is very simple to do even for the tech challenged).
Once all the technical bits are done, you can get more creative during the call to make everyone feel connected. Remember those treats and the party hats? Make sure everyone has one to make a celebrant feel special. Or, if you’re having a digital gathering to catch up over Easter with children – have each participant hide an egg in their home and take the group on a collective hunt for it! Apps such as Houseparty also have in-built games that you can play within the app to make your group video calls more interactive, unique & memorable.
If you’re a talented chef compared to your friends or family that are less adept in the kitchen, consider setting up a digital cooking class. This will allow you to share your skills and favourite recipes with those that are stuck at home with their own cooking.
All you need to do is agree on a recipe, send it out to all the willing participants so that they can gather ingredients, then set a date and time for everyone to follow along on a video call in their own kitchens. As the host, you can take everyone through the recipe step-by-step. Just have some fun and let your inner Jamie Oliver shine!
Skill sharing over video calls will work for many things. If you’re a talented dressmaker, help someone with simple alterations or if you’re handy around the house, help someone with an at-home fix. Your skills are more useful now that many services are on hold, so you’ll have the satisfaction of helping someone and spending time with them too.
Some films and television shows are simply more fun to watch with company. If you love discussing as much as you love viewing, then why not schedule a group watch party using the free Netflix Party app? This app allows users to synchronize video playback so that you can all watch the same show or movie at exactly the same time with no spoilers! Netflix Party also has a group chat feature that displays your group chat beside the video playback so you can discuss as you watch along.
Find a Workout Buddy
Staying fit and healthy while housebound can be a challenge. Especially if you don’t have anyone to help you escape the lure of the couch. Before the restrictions, it was normal to have a workout buddy that you would go to the gym or fitness classes with you to help keep you accountable.
The same goes for during the lockout. Ask a friend or family member that has similar fitness goals if they would like to be your digital workout buddy. There are a plethora of free workout classes that you can take online on YouTube – from Yoga, at-home weights to aerobics classes! Schedule an unbreakable date and time each day or week to do a class together over a video call. This way, you’ll be able to ensure that each of you show up for the whole class, and you can encourage each other through it!
All this extra time at home will allow you to explore crafty hobbies that you could never get around to trying. If you ever wanted to try painting, cross-stitching, origami or drawing, consider starting your new endeavour in the (online) company of others.
If you have an artistic friend or family member, ask them to host it for you. If not, you can all jump into it together on a video call. This way you can chat while keeping busy, ask each other questions as you learn and laugh about any inevitable mistakes. You can make this a weekly date with anyone that is open to it, and perhaps even make it lively by sharing a virtual glass of wine while you get crafty.
If your inner-circle thrives on a bit of friendly competition, you can still get your game on together online. If you all have the same gaming console, schedule to play your favourites online at the same time. If not, then hop onto the App Store or the Play Store browse through the seemingly endless free multiplayer game options that you play on your phone or tablet.
You’ll find something for everyone- from golf, puzzles to trivia. The best part about digital games is that you can sharpen your skills by practicing against the computer or strangers, which will make you even better for your digital game nights!
Another activity that we can all indulge in at home is reading. If you have a reading list that you haven’t made a dent in, now is the time to tackle it. And if you have any like-minded friends or family members, think about starting a book club. Not only will this give you an excuse to get together on a call for a chat, but it will also give you a deadline to finish reading your book.
When you’re ready to have your first book club meeting, prepare some questions about the book beforehand to help fuel your discussion. Google is a great resource for this – especially if the book is a classic, but you can also use this opportunity to get creative and craft some insightful questions of your own. One of our favourite questions is, "if the book were to be turned into a film, who would you cast as each character?" Or, for travellers, "if you could set this story anywhere in the world, where would you and why?"
Life away from our loved ones is difficult so now more than ever, we need strong connections to help get through this difficult time. Just remember that this situation is temporary and that there is joy to be found despite the hardship. By getting creative, reaching out and making time for our loved ones, we can stay connected and get through it together.