It has been over a month since India entered into a voluntary lockdown with social distancing to decelerate the spread of the novel coronavirus. The sudden restrictions on movement kicked off a domino effect, with an entire generation of working professionals finding their lives thrown into disarray. To counteract the worrying news flooding in from every corner, a long-distance friend devised an easy pact—every night before sleeping, we would send each other one photo of something that made us smile during the day. Even as the uncertainties about the future continued to mount, this simple act of gratitude helped me go to bed with a smile each night.
A quick chat with Rashi Vidyasagar, director of counselling portal The Alternative Story, proves that I’m not the only one grappling with worries about what life will look like post-quarantine. “The questions are numerous and the answers are very few,” she says. While some people are facing professional concerns, others are concerned about elderly parents back home. In these troubled times, cheering up your friend while observing social distancing can seem like an uphill task—but not an impossible one, believes Vidyasagar. The Bengaluru-based therapist adds, “We often hear people suggesting that one reaches out for help in need, but we don’t hear people reaching in to offer help. Reaching in is important because people do not want to impose. If something seems off, check in on the person. What do you have to lose if they are doing well?” If you are looking to trigger those happy hormones for your friend from a distance, here are some easy activities that will help cheer them up.
Check in on each other
“Sometimes, all that a person needs is to know that you will be there for them. The simple act of lending a listening ear and creating a safe space for your friend to talk about they are feeling can take a load off their mind,” says Vidyasagar.
Take on a project together
Trying something new together for the first time can give your friend something else to focus on. Whether it’s a dance battle on TikTok or a push-up contest, the trials and errors along the way will help the two of you create some new, fun memories to focus on.
Make room for gratitude
While the future looks uncertain right now, it always helps to recount the many blessings of everyday life. “Encourage your friend to take some time out at the end of each day to write down what they are grateful for,” she confirms. Engaging in a light-hearted compliment battle can also serve as a handy reminder of all that there is to be thankful for.
Write, don’t text
Text messages are now de rigueur for everyday conversations, but if you are looking to go the extra mile, send a picture of a handwritten note stating what you admire about your friend along with some positive affirmations to tide them over this tough period.
Pay it forward
“Indulging in an act of kindness can be an extremely rewarding activity, even if it is as simple as ordering groceries for elderly neighbours or choosing to volunteer together from home,” says Vidyasagar. “Non-profit organisations can always use an extra set of hands and your combined digital savvy to spread the word online, and this can serve as a welcome distraction from the stresses of everyday life.”
Any form of exercise, whether it is brisk walking or compassionate meditation, can trigger endorphins—those nifty little feel-good hormones. Depending on your friend’s level of expertise, you can devise a coordinated exercise routine that will get you both up and moving.
Plan the future
“Things may look uncertain right now, but it helps to believe that this too shall pass,” she says. Put together a moodboard for the future, including all that can be achieved and done after the lockdown, to remind your friend that there is an afterwards worth looking forward to.
Plan a virtual treasure quest
If you’re looking to reduce your dependence on digital devices, encourage your friend to take a break from the usual gaming apps. Devise a fun scavenger hunt to give them something else to focus on during the day—this could include a playful list of things to photograph, such as a red car, three varieties of potted plants and so on.
Give each other a makeover
If you’re looking to get someone out of a funk, a change can help. Without adopting drastic measures such as cutting your own bangs at home, give each other a virtual makeover via video call—whether it’s planning a totally new look using items they already have in their wardrobe or trying out a different hairstyle.
Put together a soothing playlist
If your friend is having trouble sleeping at night, a playlist featuring calming sounds can help. The soothing gush of a waterfall, the gentle sound of breeze rifling through leaves, the crashing of waves against the seashore… in lieu of stepping out and experiencing these sounds live, a calming playlist can work wonders for putting a troubled mind to rest during these times.
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