Reframing Social Distancing: Time to Reboot
Updated: Mar 26
There is no question that “social distancing” has catapulted to the top of our search engines and most things hashtag. Collectively, most of us are trying to grapple with the dos and don’ts of this recommendation so that we may do our part to flatten the curve and allow our healthcare providers a fighting chance to serve with any semblance of integrity and efficacy.
The truth is that we need our relationships and that social connection is vital to the wellbeing of both children and adults. In fact, research in positive psychology strongly evidences that our ability to connect with others has significant benefits to our physical and mental health as well as our longevity. (Need the data? Feel free to do a simple Google search for “the benefits of social connection” and take your pick of article.)
Yet, it can feel like we are being called to pull the plug on our social behavior just like that. Cold turkey.
However, this is NOT the case. Perhaps we are painting a faulty illusion of what social distancing means in our minds; an error of transcription. Perhaps it is this interpretation (or misinterpretation) of “social distancing” that is making many anxious, angry, and hesitant to heed this important recommendation appropriately.
What’s in a word choice, anyway?
For starters, the mind is quite remarkable in how it interprets and assigns meaning to language.
Let’s take “social distancing” for an example. In most rudimentary terms, one can interpret this to mean, “stay away from others.” Is this accurate? In part, yes. Largely no.
Now let’s reframe this term to encompass a similar spirit recommendation-wise but yield a more accurate picture relationship-wise. Ready?
What if we were to drop the “social” from social distancing? Or better yet, what if we replaced the term “social” in social distancing with “physical”? New term: Physical distancing. How would this subtle change affect the way we view our new normal?
The truth is relationships can exist and sustain themselves in more than just the physical realm. Ask anyone who has ever maintained a long distance love or a love overseas. Or anyone who has ever been separated from a family member or loved one. Or any military family. Or anyone who has suffered the physical loss of a loved one. There is no question that the physical absence poses a challenge and a hardship for sure; but the one thing it does not do is extinguish the love between persons or keep its flame from deepening. The physical component is merely one dimension of the relational plane. It is not, however, the only dimension. And most certainly, it is not the sole dimension that provides meaning, intimacy, and joy.
Important Note: Isolation, or the lack of connection, IS indeed dangerous for your health and wellbeing. Isolation is a foe. However, we are not currently being called isolate ourselves emotionally from those whom we love. Rather, we are being called to physically limit our interactions so that we can provide our medical community with the time they need to clinically leverage the tall order before them and to save thousands of lives in the process.
So friends, I humbly urge you this: If the word “social” in social distancing is throwing you off and causing you anxiety and/or sadness—then reframe it. Change the word. Give it a good reboot. Reframe it to “physical distancing” or “sheltering” or to any other term that satisfies the premise of a temporary physical reprieve for the greater good.
And most importantly, do NOT equate it with emotional distancing or isolation. It is not the same thing.
We are being called to maintain a cautious physical distance from places/ persons for a temporary time frame. And we are privileged that in this day and age, such physical restrictions do not impede our ability to maintain and/or and deepen our intimacy with one another. We just need to be patient enough and care enough to creatively try.
There is nothing more powerful, more penetrating than love. It transcends time and space if you let it.
Continue to deepen your relationships while we exercise a safe physical distance:
Share your vulnerability.
Facetime/Zoom/Viber call your loved ones.
Text words of encouragement, comfort, even or a joke.
Make a video and share it. OR.. Write a letter or card (and mail it!).
Keep a gratitude journal.
Pray for someone.
Do a loving kindness meditation.
All of the above deepen connections and extend love directly from the heart source.
No distance restrictions here, folks.
Stay safe and well. xo