How to Support Your Loved Ones in These Crazy Times (even when remote)
By Kelly Love |
We are nearly a year into this pandemic (!), which means many haven’t seen cherished family members, friends, and extended family face-to-face for far too long. In addition, many people have had to grieve for loved ones, lost jobs, failed businesses, their homes, and freedoms without the physical support of their communities, churches, families, close friends, etc. And that physical support, be it a hug, a handshake, or an exchange of unmasked smiles, is hard to replace via video conference call. The good news is, unlike a year ago, there appears to be an end in sight. In the meantime, pandemic fatigue and mental/emotional exhaustion loom large, not just from the uncertainty and sadness inherent in these times, but from the social isolation we’re all experiencing in our own way. And make no mistake, as humans we absolutely THRIVE on regular social interaction with a variety of people...not just our immediate families, pets, or significant others.
During this time we need to take extra steps to support the ones we love...even if we can’t be with them physically. Here are some creative ways we can all work together to help alleviate pandemic fatigue and loneliness while lifting up our fellow humans.
Have a scheduled call once a week with someone who’s not getting out much
For most of us, this means parents, grandparents, or family members over the age of 65 or anyone in the high-risk category. The benefit of a standing appointment is it gives everyone something to look forward to, helps establish a routine (which is really important when we’re isolated), and ensures we all show up.
Send hand-written cards via snail mail to friends, family, etc.
When we’re low on human contact, a tangible message vs. a virtual message can really lift a person’s spirits. Nobody expects handwritten cards anymore, and it shows you went the extra mile to check in with them and brighten their day.
Don’t rely on social media too much
This is a tricky one to balance. On the one hand, social media channels have been a God-send for staying connected during the pandemic, and many people find they enhance their lives. On the other hand, studies have shown that Facebook, for example, tends to erode the happiness of its users. Bottom line: pandemic or no pandemic, social media should not be used as a substitute for real human connection. Instead of wishing someone a “Happy Birthday” on social, call them up. Have a cooking question? Why not call up your mom, grandma, uncle, etc. to ask their advice vs. Googling it? Snap a sweet photo of your kiddos? Email or text it to their grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. with a personal message. It’s kind of amazing how much more time you can free up for genuine human connection, when you limit your social media time.
Encourage your children (or yourself!) to start a pen pal relationship with a family member or friend
This takes the idea of hand-written cards to a new level and can provide a sort of nostalgic reminder of “better times” for older friends and family members. Plus, letter writing is a dying art and an awesome way to keep in touch, practice your penmanship, and create mindfulness while you write.
Your children may need some help with the first couple letters, but once they get a good correspondence going they’ll be off to the races. And there’s no need to limit pen paling to out-of-towners, it can be a great way for children to keep in touch with their peers who they may not see as often as they’d like. If they (or you) need a little incentive, you can even invest in some personalized stationery and special letter-writing pens.
Bake for your neighbors
Nothing warms the heart and soul quite like a fresh batch of baked goods. Whether you’re a cookie-connoisseur, bread-expert, or throw together a mean berry crisp or pie your neighbors will appreciate the thought and the pick-me-up.
Have regular intentional time with your family and/or partner to check in
As busy as we all are trying to juggle remote working, virtual school, caring for loved ones, etc. it can be easy to lose touch with our own housemates! As one mother featured in the New York Times article: Three American Mothers, on the Brink recently said: “It’s like I just went through 24 hours and I don’t even remember any of it because I was just, go, go, go, move, move, move.”
This is why it’s so important to have intentional time to sit down and check in with your family and/or partner every day. At our house, we do this at dinnertime when everyone’s sitting around the table. It’s also wise to check in and be present with your children before bed, as this is often when kids open up about their wins, challenges, fears, hopes, etc. Yes, we’re all busy these days, but let’s not forsake those who are most precious to us.
Send a gift to your child’s teacher (they need it this year!)
Whether your children are doing virtual school, in person school, or a combination, their teachers have been under some serious pressure this year. Show them you appreciate them with a gift. If the school won’t allow baked or homemade goods, etc. get their email address and send them a gift card they’ll be forced to spend on themselves. No matter what your opinion on pandemic school district or state policies, these teachers deserve extra support and love this year.
Go the extra mile to support small, local businesses
So local shop owners may not necessarily count as your “loved ones”...but they’re somebody’s loved ones, members of our communities, and they need our help right now.
Big online stores have made record profits during this pandemic, often at the expense of small local businesses. What’s more, many of these mom and pop shops have taken steps to offer contactless pick up, online ordering, and a variety of other ways to make shopping local safer...so why not support them? Some examples of stores to keep in mind include small hardware stores, book shops, thrift or consignment stores, health food or natural food stores, furniture stores, clothing boutiques, general stores, nurseries, farmer’s markets, farms, flower shops, etc.
Engage with those who reach out, even if you’re busy
In non-pandemic times, it’s no big deal to put off responding to a text, email, phone call, etc., but if someone makes an effort to reach out and check in with you, do your very best to engage with them. Chances are, they’re craving connection and would really benefit from a few minutes of your time.
Make an extra effort to recognize special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. with a tangible token of appreciation
This could mean sending a gift, a card, or even picking up the phone to sing happy birthday (which counts as “tangible” in the 21st century!). This is also a great opportunity to support a local business, such as a florist, takeout service, or bakery.
Give extra support and care to those who are grieving
As anyone who has lost someone during COVID will tell you, this is an excruciating time to navigate the details and emotional trauma of a death. Just imagine the pain of losing a loved one compounded by the inability to be at their bedside in the hospital, say a final goodbye, hug other family members, or have a memorial service. Thus, go the extra mile within your means to offer your support and sympathy. Call, send flowers or a card, bring a meal, and check in regularly to see how they’re doing and how you can help.
Encourage one another often
We thought this quote on the value of encouragement from Roy. T. Bennett, author of “The Light in the Heart”, was perfect for these times:
“Be an Encourager: When you encourage others, you boost their self-esteem, enhance their self-confidence, make them work harder, lift their spirits and make them successful in their endeavors. Encouragement goes straight to the heart and is always available. Be an encourager. Always.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
As always, take care of yourself and ask for what you need
As Marilee says, “You can’t care for others if you haven’t taken care of yourself,” so be sure to check in with you too. It’s entirely normal to feel overwhelmed, sad, and frustrated some days...but there should be happy and fulfilling days too. If you’re lacking in joy, start by upping your self-care regime. Yes, it’s hard to find the time, but it is essential. Take 10 minutes a day to pray or meditate, get outside, plug in your headphones and take a bath, get a workout in every day, find ways to laugh, enjoy a quiet cup of tea, make sleep a priority, and above all ask for what you need and give yourself plenty of grace.
We’re here for you too!For more inspirational tips and community support, we welcome you to join our Branch Basics community on Instagram @branchbasics. Here you’ll find helpful tips on self care, health, natural living, detoxification, and inspiring stories from all over the planet. We look forward to connecting with you there!
Kelly is proof that switching to a pure, natural lifestyle is powerful even for those who consider themselves healthy. She’s experienced how much our everyday choices impact our quality of life and is passionate about helping others see and feel the connection. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi with her husband and two daughters.