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Preventing loneliness in isolation: 4 ways to stay connected

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. While the coronavirus crisis has forced us to forgo some of our more traditional means of staying connected – think family visits, backyard BBQs and gatherings at pubs and restaurants – we are fortunate to live in a time when there are more alternatives than ever before.

With that in mind, here are five ways to stay connected during isolation:

1. Familiarise yourself with video chatting technology

Hand up if you keep hearing any of the following names over the last few weeks: Zoom. FaceTime. Skype. Microsoft Teams. Google Hangouts. Houseparty.

These are all examples of video calling apps, and their popularity has skyrocketed as a result of coronavirus. They are apps that allow you to chat with family and friends “face to face” via your phone, tablet or computer.

If you’re an Apple iPhone or iPad user, for example, you may already be familiar with FaceTime; it comes pre-installed on those devices and isn’t too different to answering a phone call. However, it only works if both users have Apple devices.

For those who use Android devices, or who wish to chat with a friend or family member who uses Android, try any of the aforementioned apps. In fact, try installing a few of them on your device, and reach out to those with whom you want to video chat to find out which apps they have on their devices. Each has its own features and varying levels of user-friendliness, but you should be able to find one that you’re comfortable using.

2. Pick up the phone

It’s great to see those smiling and familiar faces via video chat, but if you’re more comfortable using technology that’s a little more familiar, you can always go back to the good old fashioned phone call.

Try to make a routine out of it – consider calling a new friend or family member each day, even if it’s just to say hello and enjoy a five-minute chat. It’ll help you stay connected, and they’re sure to appreciate the call as well – after all, we’re all facing the same feelings of isolation during this time.

3. Download WhatsApp

Whether you have an Apple or Android smartphone, there’s a creatively named app called “WhatsApp” (get it – What’s up?) that has become ubiquitous across both. In fact, did you know that WhatsApp has been the most downloaded app in the world for four years running?

If you’re not already on the WhatsApp train, here’s a quick primer. It’s a free messaging app that uses your phone’s internet connection to message and call friends and family. You don’t even need to sign up for an account – you simply connect your phone number and start messaging.

Unlike SMS, which can generally only be used locally, it means you can chat easily with loved ones anywhere in the world (as long as you both have an internet connection). WhatsApp also allows group messaging; so, for example, you can create a WhatsApp group featuring all members of your family and chat to each other at the same time.

And while WhatsApp is mostly used for messaging, you can also use it to video chat – so it’s yet another option to add to the video chatting apps listed above.

4. Help your community by volunteering

Perhaps, for you, staying connected with friends and family isn’t enough in itself; perhaps you need to feel connected to your wider community as well.

If that’s the case, now is the perfect time to give back by volunteering. There are currently loads of volunteering opportunities, both directly related to coronavirus and for organisations who may have a shortage of volunteers due to the crisis.

Most importantly during this time, some volunteer opportunities – such as telephone support on behalf of not-for-profit organisations – don’t require you to leave the home.

If you’re not sure where to start, contact the volunteering peak body in your state to find out what opportunities are available.