In the time of Covid-19 we need our friends more than ever. Across the globe the ripple effects of the pandemic are being sorely felt, yet we are finding comfort and value in connecting with friends, old and new, in different ways than before. Social distancing has left us craving the times when we could gather together over a cup of coffee in a bustling restaurant, watch a soccer game side by side or enjoy a simple braai with friends. Birthday celebrations, graduations, weddings and longed-for trips have mostly been put on hold.
Yet friendship is a need, not a luxury. As Esther Perel, the relationship expert shares, “in this time of high-frequency stress, we need as much continuity as possible, especially in the realm of relationships.” It’s been proven that having friends can lengthen your life and lower your chances of disease. Friends can offer each other the encouragement and support needed to cope through this transition. Having friends who care deeply for us and help us make the choices that serve us best will nurture our self-esteem and confidence. It also makes you a better person because you are more motivated to get out and start doing things such as creating a garden or a special meal. You may not be able to do things together, but you can still inspire each other and share your accomplishments with one another.
It is essential that we continue to build and maintain our friendships. So how do we achieve this continuity?
Firstly, we are allowed to grieve what we have lost, to acknowledge that we miss being with loved ones and wish it was different. Grief and disappointment is experienced differently by everyone and takes time, but once you bury the old way of interacting, you reach a point of acceptance and can turn your imagination to new ways.
Look up friends whom you haven’t spoken to in a long time and check in with them. Call or send voice notes to your friends so that you have the comfort of hearing the essence of your friend through their voice. Even better, arrange video calls on Zoom, Skype or Whatsapp to see each other and share a cup of coffee together online. Many teens and young adults are playing online games together or using apps like Houseparty to “meet up,” play games and video chat. Friends can host virtual movie nights using apps like Netflix Party that allow you to watch the same movie at the same time with others – you can share comments and laughter or tears together as you watch. Virtual bookclubs are also becoming popular and may bring about new friendships as you can connect to other readers around the world. Here is a link to get you started – https://time.com/5809322/social-distancing-book-clubs/. “What if” is another app where you can share challenging questions with a group of friends, giving yes or no answers such as “What if you could extend your lifespan by 20 healthy years but you step on a piece of lego every day when you least expect it…?
We are also fortunate in Level 3 lockdown to be able to exercise together in groups of up to four people. There is nothing like a walk and a talk in the fresh air with a good friend to boost one’s spirits and chase away the cobwebs of worry in the mind.
Finally, if you are just seeking a chat or some mental health guidance, you can contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) help line on 011 234 4837 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day, or the Cipla Whatsapp Chat Line on 076 882 2775 between 9 a.m. and 4p.m. every day.
The challenges of the pandemic are many, but whatever the outcome, we will handle it better “together”.