Social Wellbeing

Whether we see ourselves as more of an extroverted or an introverted person, humans are essentially social creatures. While the way in which we like to connect and the time we spend connecting may vary significantly from person to person, our social connectedness, our wellbeing as social creatures, remains an important part of our overall health. In this section you will find information on the following topics:

  • staying connected with work, friends and family
  • managing shared living
  • managing conflict - at work and home
  • opportunities for giving
  • participating in your community
  • staying informed without being overwhelmed

Staying connected with work, friends and family

Social distancing doesn't have to mean disconnection. While maintaining physical distance is likely to be important for a good while to come, maintaining our connections to workmates, friend and family remains a vital part of our health and wellbeing. We may need to do it differently, but we still need to do it.

Stay connected with family, friends, co-workers, and support systems using technology like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, and other video-based options. If you're looking to stay in touch with others who are not so tech savvy, older relatives for example, consider putting together a brief instruction sheet for them to help them engage in these social activities with you, and their friends as well. If not, then continue to use the phone to touch base or consider "going old school" and writing a letter or getting your kids to send grandma a fantastic new artwork.

Agree to a regular time to connect with colleagues or study partners over online/video calls. It provides an opportunity to share concerns, workloads or how you might be able to help each other. It's easier to hide issues behind emails and the written word but seeing and speaking to other people regularly helps to open a dialogue and keep communication positive. Share tips on what's working well for you and encourage them to do the same.

When talking to friends or family, ask them how they are doing and talk about how you are doing.  Share your fears and concerns with people you trust. Chances are they are feeling the same way and by opening that discussion you can help each other. Sometimes just being able to talk about it is all we need to feel a bit better!

As with many things, you can have too much of a good thing here. If you've been on zoom meetings all day and then a zoom dinner with your mum and dad, you can start to feel a bit overwhelmed. Notice and respect your need for space, privacy, alone time or peace and quiet too.

Managing shared living

While such of the focus during this time is on staying connected, sometimes the issue for shared living is keeping apart! Not only for the requirements of social distancing and health, but also to ensure that you get the "down time" or "me time" that you need. In a shared living situation, you may find yourself confined to your own bedroom or smaller space during this time which can exacerbate the feelings of restriction and isolation. Take extra care to get out of the house for walks to give yourself that space. Where practical, such as in a shared house arrangement, have a "house-meeting" regularly (with appropriate physical distancing measures for your situation) to discuss and agree on house rules so that everyone feels safe and can participate in their household activities. This may mean creating a roster for use of the kitchen or other common areas, and increased cleaning schedules, or agreed levels of cleaning after each use, for shared bathrooms and other shared spaces.

As always in a shared living arrangement, early and regular communication is essential to come up with the right balance for your situation.

Opportunities for giving

The act of giving is a powerful human experience. In Australia, we tend to think of ourselves as a generous people, evidenced most recently by the tremendous outpouring of money, goods, volunteering and community support during the fires and storm events of December and January. Giving to others, however you choose to do so, is a powerfully positive thing to do. It gives us a sense of control over our lives and what's happening, allows us to feel connected in a positive way to our community, even to our global community, and of course, by supporting our community and creating a healthy social environment around us, we add to our own opportunities for health and wellbeing.

There are of course many worthy and worthwhile charities and organisations doing good work in the world that you can donate to, including our own program of giving to support fellow ANU community members. But your act of giving might be to leave a food parcel or voucher for an older neighbour, giving your time to narrate books for your child's class to share and enjoy or posting some free lessons online in your field of expertise like an introductory art class, a home science experiment for teens (like our amazing alumni group!) or sharing your musical talents.

Participating in your community

Communities can be very different things to different people, but they are always an important part of our lives. During this time we may need to change how we interact with our communities to ensure that we stay connected, that our communities continue to function and to thrive and that they remain a strong and vital part of our lives after this period has ended.

There are many ways to stay connected to your community. Some communities may have already had a strong online presence allowing members to comment or communicate through different online forums. Other communities are less intuitive to take online and so may look very different during this time. Where your community has gone a bit quiet, ask yourself "how can I help look after my community?" Thinking about helping and supporting others (as circumstances allow) is helpful in stimulating positive thinking. And you may have more experience in online communications than other members of your own community and be able to provide a valuable resource in establishing some form of online community presence that is meaningful and accessible to your members.

Even if you can't fully participate in your usual community activities, just knowing that they are still there, and still a part of your life, is helpful to your wellbeing and will allow your community to bloom again when the restrictions are lifted so find a way to stay in touch, even if not doing the things that your community usually does. For example, your sports team might share exercise challenges via email or social media, even though they can't get together to train or to play.

Staying informed without being overwhelmed

With thanks to Research School of Population Health - Feeling Good:

It's OK to switch off the news in relation to COVID19, especially if it makes you feel anxious. While it is important to remain informed, try to avoid spending excessive time monitoring developments. See this article for "5 ways to manage your news consumption in times of crisis."

If you are feeling overwhelmed by news or social media, it might be helpful to limit your news and social media intake, and instead do something that helps you relax, like listening to music, going for a walk, or reading a book.

If you decide that you do need to keep up with the daily news events, pick a time and a time limit each day for reviewing the news, use reliable information and seek support where you need to. For example, ask a trusted friend or colleague to let you know if there's anything relevant in the news for you each day.

For reliable information on COVID-19 in Australia, we recommend you visit the following websites: