As our world starts to open up many of us are excited to get out and see our neighbors, friends, coworkers and families. Some of us may be wondering however, where did our community go? We’ve been quarantining, wearing masks, standing 6 feet apart, no handshakes, no hugs, no big events, minimal gatherings, and then add in political and racial tensions. We may be still working or learning from home, relationships may have ended, and gatherings haven’t fully come back to life. Over the past year we may have had a steady stream of Zoom work meetings, online book clubs, family gatherings, happy hours or even Zoom dates. Those little face checkerboards are wearing on our eyes and our nerves, and many of us just want to tune out and turn our squares black. We may be feeling disconnected, lonely and distracted.
So, what is connection anyway?
Connection is defined on dictionary.com as “a circle of friends or associates or a member of such a circle”, however connection can look so widely different to each of us. If you are extroverted and very social, you may thrive in high energy, high contact interactions. If you are more introverted or socially anxious you may prefer a quiet meet-up with family or one or two other people. You may even thrive in the at-home, online interactive world. You may also land anywhere in between on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, and your connection preference may change based on the setting, people, and your mood. You may even have been a social person pre-Covid, but now feel anxious about being around other people. We are each unique in what energizes or drains us, and no connection style is better than the other. It is part of what makes us each individual. The important point is to focus on what feeds our connection and feeling of community. Try different things, and then notice what you are feeling. Does your body feel more relaxed in certain environments? Do you find yourself happier around certain people? Notice what feels right to you, and also notice when you may feel overloaded or overwhelmed during these new points of adjustment and the re-opening of society.
Why is it important to connect with our fellow humans? Since May is Mental Health Awareness month, the message here is that feeling connected with others can actually improve our mental and physical health. Studies show that people who feel a sense of connection experience less anxiety and depression and higher self-esteem. When we feel connected, our immune system becomes stronger. Overall, we are happier.
What are some tips to flexing our connection muscle and rebuilding community?
Be Curious – ask questions, wonder, inquire and ponder together. Ask about another person’s stories. You may have more in common than you think, and you can learn from different perspectives and experiences. In learning about each other we can connect in new ways.
Be Generous – listen, help, support and share. Others are feeling isolated and lonely too but may be feeling anxious to reach out. Send a text, direct message someone on that Zoom meeting, comment on social media, make a phone call. Share your stories and reach out to connect.
Be Authentic – be vulnerable, share our hopes and fears, be human. While lives and people may look “perfect” from the outside or on social media, we all share struggles, anxieties, challenges and also triumphs. Start to remove your mask of perfection, and others will feel safe to do the same. We are all perfectly imperfect.
Keep trying, keep showing up and try again – not every situation or person will be your cup of tea, but you can find the type of connection and other humans that feed your soul.
You deserve love, happiness and connection.
Michele Bailey is a current Affordable Counseling Program intern with People House pursuing an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy at Regis University. She is a mom of teenagers, dog mom, and marriage partner. She has an MBA and a BA in international studies. She draws from attachment and experiential therapies in her work with individuals and couples with a goal of creating a supportive environment to help clients heal, grow and become empowered to live their most authentic lives. You can reach Michele at email@example.com or (720) 600-4615