The country has been socially isolating since March and although some businesses are beginning to open, many people are continuing to follow public health warnings that recommend socially isolating from family and friends who live in other households. Now, new research has shown this social isolation is taking a toll on the mental health of Canadians. A recent survey by SunLife found that 56% of Canadians are experiencing "a negative impact on their mental health, with social isolation the top contributing factor."
It's very important to stay in touch with friends and family during the pandemic and virtual connections are one way to do this. If you're currently homesharing, consider talking to your housemate about how to make staying in touch easier for you both:
1. Mail Days
Canada Post is still operating, which is great because sending letters and care packages to friends and family is a personal way to keep in touch that goes beyond the virtual world. Check in with your housemate and see if they're also interested in posting packages, and if so, take turns going to the post office to mail your letters and parcels. Scheduling a weekly trip is a great way to stay organized and ensure that you both have time to get your mail in order.
2. Virtual Platforms
Video calls and virtual platforms help you see and hear those you love but are unable to physically be with. Some user-friendly platforms include:
Facebook: Most people are familiar with Facebook, which makes it a good platform for a video call.
Discord is a text and video platform that you can use to play online games with people you know. You can create various servers on Discord, which is useful for playing a game (or just chatting) with multiple groups of people. For example, you can create a gardening server for sharing gardening tips with your friends and family who are also interested in gardening.
Zoom has a free basic account, is simple to use, and is a good way to have live virtual visits with those you love. You can play games on Zoom, enjoy a meal together, or host a virtual book club. The possibilities are endless!
3. Discuss Increased Internet Usage
These are just a few of the virtual platforms you can use to stay in touch with loved ones. However, all these platforms take up data and bandwidth. Have a conversation with your housemate to ensure that your current Internet services can cover the increased use. If not, consider your options – how will you increase your data limits in a way that's fair and affordable to you both?
Some of the virtual platforms mentioned above perform better when the Internet is dedicated to that platform. For example, having two zoom calls at the same time may cause a disruption in service (the video freezing, for example). Consider scheduling your calls with your housemate in mind to ensure you're not both competing for the Internet! Have a conversation and find a fair way to do this – some ideas include a shared Google calendar, or a physical calendar posted in a shared space in the house.
Staying in touch right now is more important than ever, and those who are homesharing have the unique benefit of being able to support each other's efforts in doing so. Just remember to communicate and find ways to fairly navigate the challenges associated with maintaining a virtual social life! The team at HomeShare Alliance is offering online interviews and free phone consultations to answer your homesharing questions.