For our first Tuesdays With Kindred, Frances spoke with Emily Coggin Vera, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in Delaware, about strategies and tips to build connection and happiness during the pandemic.
They discussed how we’re overly connected with people in our home, but losing face-to-face connection with people outside of our home and that many of us feel lonely even though we live in a house full of people.
“One thing we know is that connection is directly related to mental health,” Emily says. She shares that in a Harvard study focused on adult development, which has followed the lives of people since 1938, the current lead investigator of that study says, “Happiness is love.” Emily says these researchers found that “the stronger your relationships are, the healthier you are, the happier you are, you live longer, and you have better health outcomes, not only for your mental health but your physical health, as well.”
Here are a few strategies to achieve happiness and connection during the pandemic:
Make time to identify your needs and then ask for them.
Figure out what those needs are and express them. Think about what you need to set yourself up for your day regarding work, play, and self-care. Frances shares, “If you don’t schedule time for yourself, the day absorbs you.”
Create a schedule and routine, but stay flexible!
This will help in feeling like we haven’t lost all control. Maybe things are out of our hands, but Emily says to refocus your energy on things you can control, such as setting up a schedule, finding ways to share your space with your family, scheduling long walks, etc.
Create a divide between work and home.
Talk a walk around your house or neighborhood to mimic your commute at the end of your workday. This will help you disconnect from your work and focus on being at home.
Virtual meetings are very on point, so they don’t give much time for discussing personal lives between coworkers. Make time to have those water-cooler chats with your team!
Be of service to others.
In building happiness, when we’re always trying to make ourselves happy, we’re counterintuitively making ourselves less happy. We feel that time is slipping away and we feel we’ve become more disconnected and isolated. Being of service to others will grow that connection, making time to give our attention to other people will help us as well. *Remember: we need to be healthy in order to do this!
Frances noted that sometimes we are uncomfortable when people bring up loss and asked Emily, “Do you have any tips for how we can compassionately and thoughtfully approach our friends who are grieving?”
Emily shared, “Don’t pretend it didn’t happen, don’t pretend that person didn’t exist. Don’t be afraid to say that person’s name or to ask your friend/loved one how they’re doing. If they don’t want to talk, then they know you care. Acknowledging is important.”
If you’re a person who lost a loved one, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who can help you through that grief, like a counselor or wellness group. Take the time to do what you need to do and find ways to talk about it. MHA can help connect you with helpful resources.
The Mental Health Association in Delaware offers many virtual resources, such as Zoom groups for depression, anxiety, grief, and fun social stuff like karaoke night! Stay connected to MHA through their Website, Virtual Wellness Groups, and follow MHA on Facebook and Instagram!