47 Days: Changing Habits, Creating New Ones, and Social Connections. How the Protective Factor of Social Connections is Being Challenged During COVID

There’s a movie called ‘47 Days’ coming out.

It is a movie scheduled to come out in 2020 about the 47 days it takes to get a correct diagnosis for a woman who has an illness.

There’s another show, that was a television series, called ’24’.

All of the events of each season of the series occurred, in real time, in 24 hours. Jack Bauer was a main character, for those of you who remember the show.

Some episodes showed what was happening from one person’s perspective, and the perspectives would swap back and forth from one characters to another’s to help demonstrate the story, but the clock kept ticking to demonstrate the passage of time.

This social isolation, and change to our habits as we know them, have been ongoing now since Mid-March, 2020. In fact, when I first wrote about how the pandemic has been affecting our lives, I made several comments about March Madness (The NCAA Basketball Tournament), which was scheduled to happen the very next weekend.

In the last few days, as I continue to connect with some friends and family throughout this time of COVID, I have noticed that people have started mentioning where we are at in the timeline of our changes to our daily patterns and routines.

Like the tv series ‘24’, with the ticking clock showing where we are in the span of the 24 hours each season encompassed,

Or the movie ‘47 Days’, which I have not seen but have heard about, which is titled to reflect an amount of time that a diagnosis can take to occur for a health condition.

A friend of mine, with multiple children age 12 and under, texted me back this week when I asked her a couple of questions.

She responded that for ’47 days’, they have been in their house, with both parents attempting to work productively, care for their 3 children, and cook, clean, and take care of all other tasks.

She answered my question, and was able to provide me the help that I was looking for. In her answer, I could both hear and sense her frustration and fatigue about parenting, working, and staying healthy all while being at home, which has been a major disruption to her routine.

Today, I read on social media a post from my cousin about how things have been going for her since this Social Isolation began. She discussed that she hasn’t been able to see her new grandchild except for once, is missing her family and other grandchildren, and multiple other facts specific to her as well as some things that are universal to all of us.

Her love of her family and the fact she has not been able to be physically close to them was reflected in her post. I was also able to sense that she wrote the post to help others in her same situation know that they are not alone.

This time where we work to not spread our germs to each other, so that we can survive and not overwhelm our hospitals so that we may continue to live healthily, wreaks havoc on our Social Connections.

Social connections are the connections we have in our lives which help us get through times of stress, times without stress, and times where we want to enjoy ourselves.

They are the connections we have to help us know we have support when we need it, to help us laugh at something that we find funny, and to get along with others. Our social connections are the people who pick up our kids from day care when we are running late, listen to our story about the guy who scolded us for our driving, and help us decide when it is time for a new haircut (or that letting it grow is a great idea)

The Strengthening Families Institute has identified that there are 5 Protective Factors which help us to get along in life, and to feel better about things, and to be resilient.

The factors are: Parental Resilience, Concrete Support in Times of Need, Social Connections, Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, and Social and Emotional Competence of Children. I am a National Trainer for them, so this way of thinking is near and dear to my heart.

So here, I want to talk about how our ‘Pause’ has affected our social connections.

21 days establishes a new habit. This means, that with this social distancing and quarrantine, we have all had the chance to establish one new set of habits, which I’ll call ‘the temporary quarantine’ habits, and then to establish a new set of them, which I’ll call the ‘in for the long haul’ habits.

One thing I am wondering is how are you doing with keeping your habit of having social connections, or establishing them if you did not already them?

Many people are starting to think about what it will look like when they get out and about again. Eventually, I will have shorter hair, with a little bit of lighter roots, and I will be getting used to my sons being out of college and into their next steps.

For some, this time has been one of working a ton of hours due to their work role. People who deliver carry-out food from restaurants, people who are grocery shopping for those who are ordering their groceries, medical professionals, and many, many others have had their lives turned upside down in the way of working their jobs differently, whether that is more hours, less patients, or more serious patients when they get them.

For others, this has been a time of extreme financial hardship. Their jobs in society have been ones that may not have the capacity to pay them while their income stream is down, or they may have had to have completely changed the way that they do their job, which may be better, or it may be worse.

But for all of us, whether we generally are at home and go out as we have to, or if we run errands to get around other people and like to have our lives structured, have had to change how we get our social needs met.

Some people are FaceTiming, Some others are spending many, many hours with their kids, and some are teaching others’ kids while they raise their own.

But for all of us, our patterns have changed and that changes how we feel on a day to day basis.

I’ve written previously about the effects on our lives in dealing with and avoiding this virus a couple of times. I wrote about it when it first seemed like things would change, when things really had closed, and now, 45 days in, or 48, or whatever day into or after the pandemic it is today as you read this article.

For some, who rely on social interaction and structure, this time has been really, really isolating.

For those who love to be at home, this time has been one to reduce the number of interactions with others to a level that they are comfortable with, and a way to set boundaries about how they like to talk with friends and family members, and even which hours they like to work.

For myself, my mobility is less because I fell from a bike. I am a mover by nature, and am doing all I can to get this ankle back up and ‘running’, even though running is something I hardly ever do. I am learning to navigate getting around a little differently, so that changes my patterns and everyday connections, in addition to changing how I provide mental health therapy, which prior to now was about 90% in person and face to face, vs Telehealth through a computer screen.

I’d like to think of this time of change and evolving from a few perspectives.

1. How are you adjusting to the changes in your social connections, and how are you working to feel better than you have been during this time of change and stress?

2. What can you do, as you want to talk to others, or even listen to someone else breathe, or to get away from the people in your home, to get that need met?

3. How about those of you who really like structure and routine? When you think about how you get your own needs met, how can you do that as your routines evolve and change? A routine you may have had before the ‘Pause’, is that you woke up, got ready for your day, took the dog out, got the kids ready for school, then left for work.

You may love that routine, but then had to change it to waking up, working quietly while your kids sleep, taking the dog out when he is ready to get up, and then getting the kids up and ready to do their e-learning for school.

Any change in routine can be hard and unsettling. We use our social connections to talk about how these things can be frustrating, and to bond with those close to us about how we are working to get through times of stress.

As I finish this article, I’d like you to think about who your social connections are.

Is it your spouse? Your brother?…..Maybe a best friend from college?

Is it a work friend you no longer see in person as often, or at all?

If you can’t think of any, then I encourage you to start with finding a social connection.

Whoever it is, and however you are used to getting those social needs met, what can you do to make that a little better, and a little easier for you?

What changes to your routine in the last 40+ days would you like to see stick around? Which ones would you like to change back, or to make adjustments to?

I hope that you find something you like to look at today. I love to look at things growing, and can’t get enough of looking at a cactus I planted in early spring.

I’m also hoping to work on expanding my social connections.

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