Coping With Separation When You Live Far Away From Friends and Family

Originally published at Lifeworks.com
LifeWorks is an employee assistance and wellness programme brought to you and your family free of charge by your employer to help you manage personal and work issues. Please visit https://osmaviation.lifeworks.com/ to learn more. Log-in can be provided by your local HR office. 


It can be very hard living far away from loved ones during a difficult time such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you live in another city, region, or country, you may be worried about your loved ones, frustrated that you can’t travel to see them, or feel generally disconnected. However, there are things you can do to help you cope with physical distances.

 

Connecting to your loved ones

 

Technology—and digital communication in particular—has helped many people remain close to those they love even during the most restrictive lockdown or isolation orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Embrace technology. Phone calls and video calls are the usual go-to for communication, as it can be very comforting to hear someone’s voice. However, texting and social media messaging apps can be a great way to share little snippets of your days. Try different things until you work out what works best for each person you want to stay in touch with.

Don’t rely solely on phone or video calls. If friends and family members are working full-time or in different time zones, it can be difficult to coordinate a time to sit down and talk. Instead, try sending a longer email or a thoughtful voicenote through your messaging app. This will let you add more detail than a text while making it easier for them to listen to or read at their leisure.

Plan ahead, especially for group calls. Larger group calls can be fun, but sometimes it can be hard to orchestrate multiple members of your family or friend group. Try booking a regular, recurring call so that you get into a routine of checking in. For example, you could call your parents on Monday nights at 7:30 and have “virtual drinks” with your friends on Wednesdays.

Find ways to celebrate major events, even from a distance. If someone has a birthday, try baking the same cake and sharing a slice on video chat. If one of your family members has passed an exam, plan a virtual party or send a gift to help mark the occasion.

Reach out to people you’re not usually in touch with. Are there friends you only see when you go home for Christmas, or who have moved away? They might appreciate a check-in now, even as restrictions ease.

 

Dealing with loneliness

 

Even if you are able to speak to your loved ones digitally, it can be difficult to be physically separated. In these instances, it’s important to build your resilience and understand how to handle loneliness.

Build a network of people where you live. One of the positive things to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many people have made connections with neighbours and others in their community they might not have met before. If you can do so without violating physical distancing rules in your area, make an effort to say hello and stop for a chat.

Remind yourself that “this too shall pass.” It may be difficult and take time, but restrictions will ease. You will once again be able to travel to see your loved ones.

Be attentive to your needs and focus on your well-being. If you feel like you need some self-care, try to practise mindfulness to be present in the moment. Try a progressive muscle relaxation if you’re feeling anxious, or a meditation if you’re looking to stay grounded in the moment.

Routine can help you move forward. Try to schedule your days so that you’re eating meals at the same time. Do the things that you would normally do, such as having a shower and going for a walk.

Try to split your day up so you have activities you look forward to. If there’s something that you’ve always been curious about, nurture that curiosity. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to learn to play the guitar, search online for a YouTube tutorial for beginner’s lessons, or make a list of songs you would like to learn to play. The distraction can help take your mind off your loneliness.

If you’re struggling or feel overwhelmed by loneliness, the caring counsellors at your assistance programme can help you with ideas for how to cope.

 

Planning for the future

 

It’s not uncommon to be worried about when you’ll next get to see your loved ones in person. Even as restrictions start to relax, there is a great deal of uncertainty.

Think about how you want to spend your time together the next time you see each other.  You could keep a list of things on your phone that you would like to experience with your loved ones, such as films to watch or meals to share.

Make theoretical plans, even if they sound mundane. Try saying things like, “When it’s safe, I’m really looking forward to going to the gym with you!” This will help you to keep an optimistic outlook.

Remember to try to focus on the things you can control. It might not be safe or even possible to get on a plane or train, or to go on a long trip by car right now. However, it won’t always be this way.