College student who identifies as female in Lewis/Clark lobby smiling at her laptop screen

Social distancing can feel lonely. Here are five ways to maintain community.

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the U.S., thousands of in-person gatherings are being canceled, including sporting events, parades, concerts and church services.

While we all have a personal responsibility to practice social distancing,  it can start to feel isolating. People who have anxiety and depression can have their symptoms exacerbated, and people who are not normally depressed or anxious can start to feel disconnected and lonely.

However, there are ways to maintain community while still being responsible, according to Dr. Laura Schopp, professor and health psychology department chair in the MU School of Health Professions.

“We can mitigate the effects of social distancing by reaching out to others in different ways,” said Schopp, PhD. “It is very empowering when everyone feels like they have a place to make a contribution.”

Here are Dr. Schopp’s tips for maintaining community.

Dr. Laura Schopp portrait

Dr. Laura Schopp is a professor and chair of the Department of Health Psychology in the MU School of Health Professions.

1. Call or video chat with family and friends. Connecting with others virtually can build a sense of community during a difficult time.

This can include virtual gaming, checking in with people you normally see on a day-to-day basis via text, and hanging out in groups using video group chat apps. Get creative! Technology makes the options endless.

2. If it is safe to do so, spend time with friends and family members in-person.

Remember, it is not irresponsible for small groups of healthy people to still spend time together. The CDC defines “social distancing” as maintaining 6 feet of distance between yourself and others, when possible. Just be sure to wash your hands and wipe down surfaces before and after small gatherings.

3. Cook a meal for a friend, family member or neighbor who doesn’t cook or deliver groceries to someone who is housebound.

This is a small way to make a big impact, and will also brighten your day.

4. Greet someone with warmth without shaking hands.

There’s no need to avoid eye-contact and smiling at your neighbor. We’re all in this together.

5. Share resources, if you are able.

If you accidentally overstocked on TP or cleaning supplies, share your surplus to benefit others. Food banks, homeless shelters and other local agencies need your donations.