How to deal with being physically separated from loved ones
Updated: Oct 7
Being physically away from loved ones is never easy. Unfortunately, recent global events
have meant that a lot of us are separated from the people we care about most in the world
– whether that be our friends, partners, elderly relatives, parents or children.
With terms such as “social distancing” and “lock-down” uncomfortably nestling themselves
into our everyday vocabulary, it is all too easy to feel the mental strain of not being in the
physical presence of those we love.
Though inevitably a very challenging time for many of us, there are a number of things that
you can do to help you cope mentally with this separation.
First and foremost, it is important to stay connected. This one may seem like a bit of a no-
brainer, but it is absolutely crucial to make an active effort to stay in touch with loved ones
regularly when you are physically separated.
Just like when you’re meeting your friends and family in person, keeping in contact over
distances works best with good planning – making a specific time to talk to a loved one in
the day or week can help prioritise staying connected, which can, in turn, help ease anxious feelings associated with separation. Read our post on managing isolation anxiety.
Planning activities to do together can be fun too – with your friend that you would usually
go to the cinema with, there’s always time for Netflix Party or a film trivia quiz. Like baking
with your mum? Find a recipe you can both try out in your own kitchens and compare the
results. Would usually have dinner with a friend? Rustle up a meal (or call in a takeaway)
and have a chat with them over video call.
Quality catch-ups like these over video call can also be supplemented by sending smaller,
more light-hearted messages throughout the day. Sending jokes, quotes, pictures or articles
that you know your friend/mum/boyfriend etc. will like will help you stay connected
between longer calls. It can also be really reassuring to see a quick notification from a friend
flash up on your phone screen, and your messages will inevitably reassure them too.
Make sure you are also emotionally open with those who understand you best, even if this
is over video call. If you are feeling it is all getting too much, be vocal about it – talking about
these feelings with loved ones will help you be able to better process your thoughts. Also
make sure you are supportive in return – it is a difficult time for everyone and it is vital that
we are all actively looking out for one another.
Take care of your own mental health
It is easy to let yourself drown in bad thought patterns when you are feeling lonely or
separated from the people who know you best. It is therefore essential that taking care of
your own mental health is one of your top priorities.
Keeping a routine is important – even if you are not working at the moment, it is mentally
nourishing to keep busy, productive and doing the things you love. This will help you cope
better in the long run.
Simple actions like making a “To-Do” list for the next day can be extremely beneficial –
when you’re feeling down and having thoughts about how hard it is to be away from
people, look at your list and immerse yourself in one of the tasks.
Things on the lists don’t all have to be boring like “clean the bathroom”. Mix it up by adding
items like “find a new podcast to listen to” or “watch a dance tutorial”. If you want to learn
a new hobby at this time, you could ask your loved ones if they’d like to learn with you – it’s
always possible to support each other’s progress, even from afar.
Keep exercising and your diet healthy too – both of these are inextricably linked with mental
health, and, even if it’s just turning on your favourite music and dancing alone in your
bedroom – it is important to keep moving. You can also include your loved ones in this –
maybe you both want to take up running and can encourage and support one another.
There is always a way to be creative and include loved ones in your wellbeing, no matter
how far the distance.
Make plans for the future
It can be easy to see and focus on the negative in any situation. Yes, it is terrible that you
can’t go to the pub with your friend, hug your grandmother or have dinner with your
partner. But, as with any life circumstance, altering your perspective on a situation can
significantly change the way you react to it and consequently the way you feel about it.
Instead of focusing on the negative – the fact you are physically separated from a loved one
– try and think of what you’re grateful for instead. I’m sure that, in many ways, you are
extremely grateful you have such brilliant and amazing people in your life to miss so much.
Also try to focus your mental energy thinking about the favourite things about a person
you’re missing, the memories you’ve shared with a loved one and your hopes for the future
with them, opposed to solely focusing on how much you miss them.
You could even actively make a list with a loved one about what you are going to do when
you see each other again. These don’t have to be big things – right now probably isn’t the
time to be planning your trip of a lifetime to Patagonia. They can be small too; giving each
other a big hug, having a home spa day together, going for a day trip somewhere, having a
kick about with a football or even just lazing about for a day eating pizza and watching your
favourite movie together.
Make plans for the future with them. It will help you to remember that this time will pass,
and that you will soon be by their side again.