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How to safely navigate your social needs in case of third wave
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How to safely navigate your social needs in case of third wave

Social distancing has become the way of life for some and for others, it is an unending punishment. We are seeing a polarity in everyone’s responses to the concept of staying socially distant from people and places they love. There is either a complete

Post by on Sunday, June 20, 2021

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Smiti Srivastava


Social distancing has become the way of life for some and for others, it is an unending punishment. We are seeing a polarity in everyone’s responses to the concept of staying socially distant from people and places they love. There is either a complete shying away from others, or sometimes, a dangerous embracing of physical proximity. It’s heartbreaking to see that as humans, one of our most basic needs to stay connected is being put to test.

The last two years have shown us how experiencing and living through an event collectively, brings people closer together. Despite living busy and compressed lives, we have been forced to pause and lean on one another. This leads to a sense of belonging, community and a triumphant survival of atrocities. The Coronavirus is a word that refuses to leave our daily vocabulary and so comes a realization that life must move on. We must find a way to adapt to newer realities, equip ourselves with tools to deal with not having answers about the future and focus on what’s present today.

There seems to be a pressure to grasp what you can, when you can- before time runs out again. We’re in a cycle of ‘lockdowns’ and ‘unlock’ wherein we come out in the open, gasp for a long breath of air and dive right back into isolation. With talks about the third wave doing the rounds, there is a perceptible increase in anxiety, disappointment and fear that people are collectively feeling. There may even be feelings of frustration, loss of time and hopelessness. I’m here to tell you that all of this is completely normal. This is a natural response to an unnatural circumstance. Your threshold is being pushed and you are bound to have a dramatic emotional response to it.
So what does one do in such a situation? Is there a middle ground that holds space for our needs whilst also keeping us safe? The answer is a cautious but reassuring YES. Let’s look at what we might need in these times and how we can try and find a reasonable balance.

1) Meeting close or extended family
While it may be a little disappointing that we have to put reasons for meeting our loved ones through a filter, we might want to reflect on the urgency of it in such times. Sometimes, one could feel emotionally starved for some contact and affection and that becomes especially hard for those living alone. 
Tip: If you are living alone, consider moving in with a family member so that you are not struggling for social connectedness on a daily basis. If you are living with family members and you want to meet extended family at a gathering, make sure it is in strictly small numbers (as per the social distancing rules applicable at the time). Wearing a mask should be non-negotiable and be careful not to expose the elderly of your home to any outsiders.

2) Interaction with the elderly/ vulnerable population
If you’re from a population that is more vulnerable to being infected, chances are that you have been very strict especially with your social interactions. If you’ve followed the drill, you may have felt exhausted from the incessant care that goes into keeping yourself safe. This can lead to long periods of necessary but deeply unwilling social isolation.
Tip: It is very important to connect with others in a similar situation as you are so if you have any friends try and get on a phone call with them as part of your daily routine. This will help satiate some of your social needs and will also bring some structure in your day. If you are someone who knows an elderly person that is surviving this pandemic alone or without much help, try and engage with them over video calls regularly. Use as many tools as possible. Engage them in a live hobby class so that they have more real time interaction.

3) Engagement for the children
I feel most sorry for the youngest, who at best, can only express their frustration to their parents or caregivers via behaviours they haven’t yet found the language for. Children need constant engagement and they breed tireless curiosity. When schools were functional, parents would be able to share responsibility of engagement with educational institutions while focussing on their day jobs/ daily chores but now, they suddenly have more responsibilities than their lifestyles can make room for.
Tip: It is the quality of the time you spend with your child that matters. Spending hours with your child without engaging with them may do more harm than good. If your children are able to understand, you may want to have a dialogue with them, reassuring them that you are doing your best and are always around for them and that you are sorry if you are busy with work. Your child is more likely to be receptive and demonstrate positive outcomes to reassurance rather than anger or frustration.

4) Meetings with friends
If you’re meeting friends outside of a cohabited environment, the rules get a little blurry. You suddenly don’t know where they’ve been, how much you can truly ask or know. This is tricky because one needs to be careful not to get infected or transmit infection to other ‘bubbles’. It is very important to assess how important or urgent it is for you to meet a friend before you venture out with all your necessary precautions because a small slip can have heavy implications.
Tip: Please remember, it is okay to insist on someone wearing their mask and following necessary precautions. This may not be the time to take offence if someone asks you to be more careful around them. It is no reflection on you as a person if someone wants to be cautious about their health and well-being. Respect another person’s social distancing boundaries if they have decided to meet you and do what you can to mitigate all possibilities of infection, even if it means getting a negative RT-PCR test as proof.

As time goes by and we prepare for uncertain times, all we know is that we can prepare for safety with certainty. If you want to incorporate socialising into your life, make sure you’re still socially distanced and not putting anyone (including yourself) at risk. We have learnt a lot about how to stay safe from the virus and as more and more people are vaccinated, our ways of negotiating safety will change too.

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