Social Connections & COVID-19

Early on in the pandemic, we were given the message to stay socially distant from one another outside of our immediate household. Luckily, many leaders quickly recognized that this was not the proper message to be sending when the intent was to keep a physical distance from one another for our own safety.

Today, we are still under the general guidance of remaining physically distance from individuals outside of our intimate household and social circles. Each day, we all make decisions for our own personal health and the health of those who we choose to interact with for a variety of reasons. For many, we are still in solidarity against a virus that we cannot see with our eyes but has caused disruption within our daily lives.

As the vaccine distribution rollout is ongoing and guidelines are being lifted for gatherings of various sizes, we will face additional decisions for our personal welfare and for those who we may be providing direct care and interacting with through our choices in activities and lifestyle. Our social lives have shifted over the past year in the way we connect or share time with others such as physical gatherings at a restaurant.

For many, we have managed to maintain our relationships in different ways, mostly supported through technology and for some, reverting back to ways of communication that had gotten away from us, such as a phone call and writing a letter or card. Using tech to stay in touch has kept us connected to loved ones in a different way.

As humans, we are hardwired to be social. Social connections are vital to our wellbeing. Being social helps to keep our brains agile and healthy. Our brains get a workout when we are engaged in a meaningful conversation and when we are practicing active listening. It is important to nurture our relationships in a variety of ways, whether in person or not. I suspect many of us have a friend or family member that we have not seen in years but still value. Remember, it is quality over quantity and luckily, our ability to maintain social relationships is a strength of aging.

Social connections are vital to our brain health. Here are two quick tips to prioritize our social health this month.

1. Expand your social circle. Try something new, get involved, or plan a virtual meet-up. Many people have used this in various ways to connect over the past year from class reunions, to family game nights, to trivia with friends, to a virtual social with colleagues. Looking for a way to meet-up with like-minded individuals? Feel free to join one of our FREE monthly “Brain Changing Power of Conversations” at the Virtual Brain Health Center.

There are also a variety of ways to check out new events virtually from the comfort of your own home. Review your local listings, Meet-Up, Zoom, or Eventbrite for local, national, and global options that might pique your interest and be available from your couch and device. Sit back and engage with a new group, instructor, or event based on your personal interests.

2. Stay connected with others. Connect with at least one person per day. Call. Text. Email. Mail a card. Or grab a virtual coffee or tea. Maybe even tea or coffee on an outdoor patio now that they weather is getting nicer in Northeast Ohio! Find something that works for you and reach out once a day (at least) to someone! Take this friendly reminder to connect with the friend or family member that you have been meaning to contact.

I hope you will continue to stay in touch with the EngAGE Your Brain blog series. If there is a topic that would be beneficial to your personal brain wellness journey, please reach out to the editors or leave a comment below. Thank you for taking the time to optimize your brain wellness.

In brain health & wellness,

P.S. Blog Update on Covid-19 and The Brain
After my last blog post, another hallmark study related to COVID-19 and the brain was released. The researchers noted that COVID-19 diagnoses were associated with higher incidence rates of anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders among 236,379 survivors after reviewing their charts over six months. (An incident rate is calculated by the number of new cases of a given condition observed over a given period of time in an affected population (COVID-19 patients) in comparison to the total population. We still need to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the brain and its longer-term consequences, but this is a start within a six-month time frame and one of the larger studies completed to date.


**Written for “EngAGE Your Brain!” blog series for Northeast Ohio Boomer & Beyond Magazine. Read the original article post here.

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