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22 August 2021

Feeling a little adrift? How to stay connected in a COVID world – and why it’s good for you

Connecting with others is essential for your health and wellbeing. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that humans are naturally social; that ‘no one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world’.

Research published by VicHealth highlights that social connection – the people we know, the friends we confide in, the family we belong to and the community we live in – contributes to our physical and mental health in a variety of ways.

A landmark study cited by Stanford Medicine shows that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On a positive note, strong social connection strengthens your immune system, helps you recover from disease faster and may even lengthen your life.

Staying connected in challenging times

There’s no doubt that lockdowns are a lonely time for many of us. According to Dr Sharon Horwood from Deakin’s School of Psychology: ‘At the heart of loneliness is a feeling of disconnection from people or place. It’s often a feeling of sadness or perhaps distress, and can feel like there is something important missing from your life. It’s a very debilitating feeling, especially if it’s prolonged.’

But how do we avoid these feelings when so many of the networks and social outlets that we use to escape from work, study or stress are currently off limits?

We’ve listed some things you can do to develop and maintain connections with your peers, family and friends, even if you can’t physically get together right now. Just remember that connection is different for everyone – not all of these will suit your personality or circumstances, so do what works for you!

Take part in U Belong Week

DUSA’s U Belong Week, from Monday 23 to Friday 27 August, celebrates that there’s a place for everyone at Deakin. Check out what’s on – from the U Belong Showcase to a Zoo Zoom session!

Join a club

Get involved in some awesome uni events and activities by joining DUSA. They host many student clubs and societies based on a wide variety of interests, sports and demographics, so you’re sure to meet some like-minded friends this way.

Participate in unit discussion boards

Regularly visit the discussion board on your unit site via DeakinSync – introduce yourself with a post, ask a question or post a reply. Joining the discussion is a great way to make a connection and engage with your peers. Also aim to attend your timetabled online classes whenever possible.

Join a Students Helping Students program

Joining a peer mentor program – either as a mentor to help new students or a mentee to receive helpful advice and info – is a great way to meet new people. 

Check out Deakin Buddies

Studying with others helps keep you motivated and can make it easier to understand your course material. Plus you build a network of friends and supporters! As classes will be online for the rest of T2, we encourage you to join Deakin Buddies – an app designed to connect you with other Deakin students.

Use technology

While technology doesn’t ever replace face-to-face interactions, it does enable contact when you can’t meet in person. Dr Sharon Horwood says that video calls are a great way to connect because you can see the other person and there’s more to be gained in non-verbal communication: ‘You can see them smile, and can convey a lot of meaning without using language. So they’re probably better than other forms like direct messages or emails.’

Keep it personal

The experts at Beyond Blue stress that connection is a very personal experience. While for some people, it needs to be an organised activity or something unifying – like a book club or being part of a team – for others, an unexpected smile from someone as you’re out walking or saying hi to a neighbour will foster a genuine sense of connection.

Get expert advice and help

Beyond Blue has some fantastic tips and resources for how to stay connected during COVID-19. You can also learn how to help someone who may be doing it tough by visiting the RUOK? website and downloading their Mateship Manual.

If you’re feeling isolated but don’t want to open up to loved ones, try Deakin’s free student counselling services or talk to one of our Multifaith Chaplains. There’s also a range of mental health apps that may help.

Remember: If you ever need immediate emergency help, please contact LifeLine or SuicideLine straight away, or dial Triple Zero (000).

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