COVID-19 changed our lives in countless ways, from how we work to how we dress in public to protect ourselves from the virus. According to experts, it has also changed our friendships. More people are weeding their garden of casual acquaintances and fertilizing the friendships that are more meaningful. Sherilyn Carlton, a 47-year-old corporate coach from Battle Ground, Washington, was socially active before the March lockdown and says that hew new, more isolated life has become restorative, according to The Washington Post.
“I detoxed from all the social connecting I was doing,” she explained. “I’ve gotten to crave that time to myself, and I’m so much more aware of what I need.” Carlton says that out of her formal wide circle of contacts she now only sees two friends regularly, and even after everyone is vaccinated, she doesn’t plan on returning to her former whirlwind social life.
Shasta Nelson, a leading expert and keynote speaker on friendship, and author of the book, “Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Friends, has found that people are prioritizing their pals during the pandemic, according to the Post.
“The pandemic gave us this collective permission to talk about the hard things going on in our lives without shame,” she said. Nelson added, however, that people who were unable to transition their close friendships to virtual connections via phone, text, or Zoom “are the people who are super lonely right now.”
Experts say that those who have not made friendships a priority and feel isolated are at greater risk for mental health issues. Experts told the Post that while Facebook may trick us into believing that we have hundreds of “friends,” most are not the people you can confide and rely upon like those in your close inner circle who are there for you through thick and thin.
According to USA TODAY, The Benensen Strategy Group surveyed 775 adults and asked them questions relating to the coronavirus and their mental health. A full 55% of the adults interviewed said that the coronavirus affected their mental health, says Benjamin F. Miller, a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Stanford School of Medicine.
“It’s hard to imagine a scenario dealing with something as unknown as coronavirus and not be a bit stressed; however, at this moment the multitude of stressors may be like pouring gasoline on an existing wildfire,” he says.
Miller adds that, according to surveys, a whopping 71% of Americans are worried that social isolation, an important part of fighting the virus, will have a negative impact on our mental health.
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