Staying socially engaged in 2020, even in ‘strange times’

By Lisa Turner, LMFT

Special to The Witness

These are strange times we are living in. unprecedented, some might say. Regardless of political viewpoints, it’s a weird world we live in.

Depending on the degree to which we watch or read the news, we are informed in various ways. Some of us feel overloaded and overwhelmed, while others are less informed about world events and resources – and we like it that way!

Lisa Turner

Our Catholic Charities counselors are working remotely, using telehealth to meet the needs of existing clients. This is great for those individuals who had an already established relationship with a therapist, but what about for those who don’t have that connection to rely on? It’s nearly impossible to get a same day or same week appointment for counseling, no matter where you live, and now it’s not even advisable to be in the same room as another person. So what do you do?

Catholic Charities continues to update its website and social media pages with up-to-the minute resources for individuals and families. This includes a new feature called, “Mental Health Minute,” with Catholic Charities counselors presenting a short minute (or two) resource to assist during this time. We also know that not everyone has access to the internet or electronic devices, especially if they can no longer work from the office; therefore, Catholic Charities is also communicating through traditional media, like The Witness.

Social distancing can affect the mental and emotional health of everyone. An important distinction to make is that social distancing is different from social isolation. Social distancing is about keeping a physical distance, while staying socially engaged. Staying socially engaged is important for mood, and to keep depression and anxiety at bay. Introverts get most of their energy from being alone, while extroverts generate their energy by surrounding themselves with other people.  In the end, however, we all need people. Here are some examples of what social engagement might look like:

● Take a walk with friends, while keeping six feet apart. This is best executed on a quiet, residential street.

● Sit on opposite sides of a residential street, in a chair, and enjoy coffee with a friend or neighbor.

● Many communities and neighborhoods are sponsoring “bear hunts,” a type of scavenger hunt where you and the family are on the hunt for bears that people put in their windows or on their front porches (the stuffed kind). This could be done in a car or on foot.

● Schedule “coffee” or “dinner” or “drinks” with friends and family using Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or another virtual platform.

● Keep your “dates” and do them re­motely as much as possible – book clubs, play dates, Bible studies, etc.

● Pick up the phone and call someone.

● Join an online community.

● Attend Mass online.

God designed us for relationship. We were made to be in community with one another. (Genesis 2:18) Without that in­teraction, we don’t function well as human beings and struggle with boredom and loneliness. So it’s not just our mental and emotional well-being that is at stake during this pandemic – our spiritual well-being is vulnerable too. It is important that we take care of our whole selves – mind, body, and spirit. Do not allow COVID-19 to starve you socially and weaken your spirit.

Catholic Charities is currently closed to the public, but employees are working remotely and answering phones and emails promptly. For more information, contact Catholic Charities counseling at 800-772-2758, or go to www.catholiccharitiesdubuque.org/catholic-charities-services/counseling-services.