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How to Find Connection in a Socially Distanced World

Today we have another guest post from Jacob Gries, a freelance writer and avid runner who is joining us for Level Up: Race for Humanity. After completing Connection Week, he’s back with another post with his take on connection.

Connection can be a tricky thing to find during a global pandemic—I would guess I’m not alone in this discovery. In a strange way, this should be a time where everyone is more connected than ever before by a common cause: To do everything we can in our own worlds to ensure that we can get back to a normal way of life as soon as possible.

Of course, the underlying issue with this premise is that we’re unable to connect with each other in the traditional way we’ve been accustomed to for most of our lives. In the past, I’ve found family and/or community gatherings to be essential in overcoming troubling or grief-stricken moments, which we’ve all undoubtedly experienced during this trying year. We’ve been robbed of those special, memorable moments, often forced to reckon with our new reality either alone or with just a few others.

I remember when the pandemic really started to take hold in the U.S., and stay-at-home orders were first issued. I thought I’d use the time to catch up on some TV shows and movies that I’d neglected over the years and to accomplish a few things I’d put on the back burner for far too long. In other words, I didn’t really see the situation as a complete negative. But social distancing can create intense feelings of isolation, where it becomes difficult to recreate and replicate human touch, which we’ve always taken for granted. The group video chats and weekly calls are great and all, but it’s nothing like the real thing. We’re all human beings, and even as we transition into a more technologically dependent world, we’ll still crave person-to-person connection.

So, what can we do to keep ourselves in the right headspace? For one, the polarization exercise to be hugely helpful (check out the Connection Week tab on the Level Up page for details). With more time alone, I’ve often found myself spending too much time incessantly and mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed, which can produce some raw, often negative, emotions. It’s important to remind yourself that these hateful, negative feelings, while visceral and incredibly powerful, aren’t ultimately healthy and don’t lead anywhere positive.

Right around the beginning of the year, just before we all became confined to our homes, I started getting into yoga. One of the core tenets of yoga is the mind-body connection and connecting your breath to your thoughts and your movements so that you’re synergistic in everything you’re doing. I have to be honest, at first I thought it was all a little ridiculous and was just in it for the workout part. But the more I bought into these messages, the more I connected with myself, both spiritually and emotionally, which has been immensely valuable during this time.

Not only has it helped me know myself better and keep a level head amid all of the craziness swirling around us, it’s impacted my training in a positive way. During any run, we all experience negative thoughts and feelings of “Should I stop now?” or “I’m way too tired to go on.” As I talked about last week, it is important to listen to your body. However, achieving synergy between your mind and body allows you to break through those mental barriers, which can be incredibly satisfying and rewarding.

So get out there, get better acquainted with yourself, and keep training for the big race!