As we all know, COVID has taken a toll on everyone's mental health. Isolation can drive a person crazy after a while. Over the past year, students were taken out of schools, athletes couldn’t attend games, parents were sent home from work, and millions of people went into an isolation period. It’s been officially one year of COVID in the United States, and the isolation period aka “quarantine” is still in effect. And the end result? All friendships have suffered.
I’ve personally experienced losing friends in quarantine and the feeling of loneliness while in isolation. I’ve gone through stages in my life when I wished someone would have reached out to me and asked how I was doing or just simply checked on me. When I had COVID this past December, it was a very lonely time for me. I was stuck in my room, socially distancing from my roommate for three weeks. I couldn’t go near her animals or her, and it was very emotionally draining. Not only that, but I’m naturally a people person and I love interacting with people.
A lot of my friends didn’t realize I had COVID until I recovered and tested negative. A text or call would’ve made me feel less lonely and my friends have felt the same way about me. I realize that I’ve made mistakes in the past by not checking in on my friends as much as I should have. I didn’t find out until later that they were going through a really hard time and needed a friend as well. Talking to a friend is one thing, but having a real conversation about their true feelings is rare. You could talk to someone every single day and still not know a thing about how they truly feel.
Normalize mental health checks.
Checking in with a friend once every few weeks or months can make them feel so special. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an everyday thing because we are naturally busy but every once in a while will mean so much to them. Opening up more and having these conversations could strengthen the friendship and bond you have with that person. It’s important to find ways to improve both your mental health and help your friends with theirs as well! Some COVID-friendly options to improving your mental health are self-care and FaceTime. Self-care can include face masks, taking a nap, or meditation. You could even do these things together over FaceTime. Watching movies or shows together is a great bonding activity. Netflix has a feature where you can start a sharing party and watch the same film as someone else. If you wanted to get out of the house you could go to a drive-in movie theater with two separate cars. Buzzfeed has a list of fun things to do with your friends virtually.
The Mental Health Foundation strongly encourages friends to keep in touch with one another. “When someone has a mental health concern or is experiencing mental distress, it is important to try to keep friendships going, even though people with mental health problems often want to see their friends less than usual.” Some people push others away whenever they’re experiencing mental distress, and that can make it harder on the other person to check on them. Some are too shameful sometimes to come forward with their feelings and scared of how others will react. The first step is genuinely checking in on a friend and seeing how they’re feeling. The next step is to have them feel comfortable enough to share their feelings with you. Once you both have more open conversations about feelings, then it will be easier to commit to mental health checks.
Remind yourself how you felt when you were lonely and what you had wanted to hear. Have that same mindset when you reach out to your friends and think about what would make them feel better. It’s difficult to physically be there for friends right now, so it’s important to mentally take care of each other.