By Nikki Eskenasi, PsyD
Many of us have been more isolated than ever over the past several months throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the challenge of spending so much time away from friends and loved ones, it can be particularly hard to remain connected to our co-workers when we work in isolation. So, as the days pass it becomes increasingly important that we continue to connect in novel ways. Social engagement at work isn’t just courteous – it’s good mental health. Reaching out to co-workers reduces loneliness and sadness, and increases positive mood and our sense of community.
Like much of the world, during the last 6 months our entire office at Center for Anxiety has been working from home. We’ve gone from seeing so many people face-to-face every day, to only seeing one another through a screen. One of our core values at the Center for Anxiety is that we are “Never Alone: We work collaboratively and support each other as a diverse team.” The pandemic brought this message home in a unique way, and indeed despite being apart from one another we are truly “Never Alone!” My colleagues and I jumped into action, acknowledging that it is essential to maintain our own connections with loved ones and each other, and we spread the word to support others in maintaining their own mental health through this pandemic.
Throughout my time working at the Center for Anxiety, I’ve noted over and over again how each clinician truly embodies this value in an effort to support one another and our clients, with warmth and openness. So many of my colleagues went above and beyond to connect with one another in new and creative ways. One of my wonderful co-workers, for example, started a gratitude message channel with daily prompts for us to have a space to express appreciation for both small and large things, and to bring a positive moment to the day. Gratitude practice can be hard to do when sadness and suffering looms over us, though it can have significant benefits to our physical health, mental health, and in fostering social connection.
Another colleague rallied us together for book and Netflix clubs as a way for us to connect, laugh, and share common interests. If you want to start your own club, here are some ideas how to get started.
I’ve also been so excited and comforted by messages from co-workers just reaching out to say hello, or “Happy Friday!,” or to send a message of a cute meme.
The common thread within all of these experiences was that despite our physical distance, I felt connected to my co-workers in a way I hadn’t before, and this served as a reminder that I am not alone.
If we can take a few moments each week to connect with our co-workers, and then do those things mindfully – with intent and purpose – we can truly feel connected despite being apart. Fundamentally, the pandemic has reminded us that all people, as humans, inherently experience communal loneliness and disconnection when apart from one another. To that end, creating connected experiences, little by little and over time, can remind us that we are truly Never Alone.