Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Maintaining Friendships During Covid-19



In the midst of this strange new ‘normal’ we are all constantly juggling and processing a whole host of emotions that can change at any given moment. I know for me personally, especially in the first few weeks of lockdown, my mood could change dramatically from one day to another, sometimes even within the same day. It’s a situation that is new and uncomfortable for us all, which makes it more important now more than ever to check in on those we love.

 

There will be some friends who are ticking along quite happily, perhaps even enjoying the extended time they get to spend at home, while others will be silently struggling daily. The problem is it can be almost impossible to tell which is which, especially if you aren’t in regular contact with them.

 

With mental wellness being at the forefront of everyone’s mind, there are a lot of posts floating around social media to not stay silent, to reach out, to talk to someone if you need help or support, but ultimately those that need to are unlikely to reach out. Those that are struggling won’t come to you and tell you that they are having a hard time, they’ll just carry on silently as if nothing is wrong.

 

When people are suffering, they’ll do their best to pretend they aren’t and hide it from the world. They’ll see themselves and their problems as a burden that they don’t want to inflict on other people, even though no one else would think of them as a burden at all, quite the opposite in fact.

 

This makes it all the more important to check in with people. It can be as simple as taking the time to drop them a message, or perhaps a phone call, or send them something small in the post. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, extravagant or expensive. A hand written letter, a few photos in the post, maybe even some seeds for them to grow and care for. Just little things to show you are thinking of someone and care for them can make a huge difference. Even if they are doing fine, the gesture will be gratefully received and you’ll make them smile.

 

A group chat is fine for keeping in touch with multiple people at once, but it’s easy to hide in a group, to be non-responsive and quiet, or even to feel less important or valued. Those friends who have suddenly started leaving those group messages on read may just be busy, or they need that little more love and support right now. Reach out to them, and let them know you care for them.

 

On that same note it’s important to remember that now is not the time for friendship testing. In fact, I would go so far as to say there is no time where friendship testing is really okay. I’m sure we’ve all seen the posts floating around social media, sadly some of which have been posted by a few people I know, to “remember those who made contact with us in lockdown and those who didn’t”. Here’s the thing; contact, friendship and looking after each other goes both ways.

 

You haven’t spoken in weeks because they didn’t reach out to you? Well, perhaps it is you who should reach out to them. For all you know they are struggling immensely, but if all you can focus on is how they may not have contacted you, that’s rather selfish of you. There could be any number of reasons someone hasn’t been in touch, but most of them are probably not because they don’t care about you. As the saying goes ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and there’s every chance that theirs is running low and in need of a top up.

As I said before, it goes both ways. Friendship, in fact any relationship for that matter works best when both parties contribute to it and work for it. It doesn't have to be identical contribution from each side at all times, after all we're all in different places, but it is something that still requires some degree of effort and understanding from both sides.  

 

I guess the best advice I can give is to utilise what we have at our disposal to remain in contact with each other. It doesn’t have to be a huge and extravagant gesture every time. We are lucky technology gives us a massive range of ways to stay in touch with one another. More than ever, now is the time to show each other patience, understanding and kindness. One text message or letter in the post takes next to no time to do, but could make all the difference to someone.



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