Life

Coronavirus: 5 ways to talk about anything other than the pandemic crisis

When all your conversations with friends and family revolve around the pandemic, your mood can easily spiral downwards. Here are five suggestions for maintaining vital contact without focusing on the C-word.

So, you’re working from home under quarantine—just another day in the life of our new normal. For those of you who aren’t freelancers used to this way of life, you’re probably feeling a lot of things: anxiety, anger, frustration, and ants in the pants. Leave to a freelancer with PTSD and the boundless energy of a Bipolar 2 diagnosis—whose closest friends live across the country from her—to help you through it. Hello, that’s me! 

As someone who knows how important it is to regulate one’s mood, social distancing and shelter in place can create a frustrating dynamic: anxieties are high, unknowns abound, people are lonely, and everybody and their mother can do little more than talk about COVID-19, when what we all really need to do is talk about literally anything else to stay sane. So how do you maintain enriching relationships in a time like this? 

The typical answers all remain true here—stay in touch with FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom meetings, Google Hangouts—but the important part is the intention with which we carry on these conversations. We have to put in the work to keep our minds and spirits engaged and not despairing. So during times like these, here are my five tips…

A woman feeling lonly

Ask Different Questions

Most conversations start out with some variation of “How are you?” But take it from a professional interviewer: this is a bad question to ask. It’s so open-ended, and most people are full of dread, so it’s not exactly one programmed for a fun or engaged conversation. Instead, ask questions that are more specific and off the beaten path. I love to ask people things like, “What’s the weirdest thing you saw today?” or their most random shower thoughts. 

The point is all about engaging beyond the surface. You could even do that 36 Questions to Fall in Love questionnaire, whether you’re dating the person you’re on the phone with or not. It’s bound to bring up something interesting to talk about.

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Tap Into Nostalgia

I am not usually a fan of playing the “remember when?” game because I think by and large we’re all a bit too obsessed with nostalgia. But if ever there were a time to reminisce over funnier, simpler, less stressful times, it’s now.

Make Up Your Own Games

Trust me when I say, there’s something sort of fun about leaning into the painfully corny. Hypothetical scenario-based games have always been an effective way to playfully get to know more about people. “Would you rather?”, “Two truths and a lie” or things like “If you could be any two combined animals, which would you choose and why?” when done among actual friends and not just camp counselors and awkward coworkers can bring the giggles and goofballery, with or without a glass of wine in hand (though it certainly doesn’t hurt).

A woman who is stressed and tired

Get Up and Dance. 

Don’t ask questions, just get on FaceTime with someone you love, dance it out to the silliest, best song you know, and thank me later.

Be More Present and Vulnerable. 

Not all silences are awkward, nor is it painful or weird to just sit in silence with someone, listening to music, the rain, or even nothing at all. There’s a lot of pleasure to be found in just keeping one another company, even if we don’t have the words to fill every single moment with laughter and cheer to block out the dread. Sometimes just sitting saying nothing means everything to someone.

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We can use this time of social distancing and lockdown as an opportunity to connect more deeply with one another, and I think there’s something really special about that, if we commit to it. I dare say we’ve been in desperate need of a realignment of our communication styles and general ability to remain present for quite a while. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken a global health crisis to make us do it, but it’s here now, so let’s act.

Images: Getty

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