Healthy Campus Initiatives Presents “The Emotional Reality of Social Distancing”: Coping With Loneliness and Adapting to Change

Healthy Campus Initiatives discusses building relationships and overcoming loneliness during quarantine. - Photo courtesy of Angela Colo / Healthy Campus Initiatives intern

Last Thursday, March 11, Rowan’s Wellness Center hosted “The Emotional Reality of Social Distancing” with junior psychology major and Healthy Campus Initiatives (HCI) intern Angela Colo.

Colo spoke with enthusiasm during the event, striving to help her virtual audience understand that they are not alone during this time of isolation. The presentation discussed ways that students can socialize safely, such as going outside for a walk, setting up a picnic, doing yoga, attending a drive-in movie — with separate vehicles — and watching the sunrise or sunset.

According to Colo, there are plenty of creative and exciting activities to do with friends and family, while still wearing a face mask and maintaining a six-foot distance.

She empathized with the event’s participants, emphasizing the importance of creating a safe area for open communication where students feel comfortable expressing how isolation has changed their everyday lives.

“My goal for tonight’s event was to connect with others and help others feel less alone,” Colo said. “I want people to feel optimistic about making friends and take comfort in knowing that many others are feeling isolated and lonely right now. I do feel that I was able to have people relate to each other and see that they aren’t alone in their feelings and exhaustion of being socially distant.”

Throughout the event, Colo welcomed vulnerable conversation, allowing students to discuss how loneliness has affected them both during quarantine and currently, due to the majority of classes still being held over Zoom.

Thankfully, there is hope in knowing that we can FaceTime – and set up Zoom meetings – in order to have dinner or simply catch up with loved ones and friends.

“I think this can bring the Rowan community together by opening up conversations about how we’re feeling and making it a safer space to make new friends,” Colo said. “Knowing that a lot of others are seeking connection and friendship can make it easier to reach out.”

While, at first, it may seem intimidating, nothing is more rewarding than making new connections through shared experience.  

Colo provided multiple links to Rowan events and organizations where students can meet new people with similar interests and plan to do things safely. She hoped to provide a sense of unity for the Rowan community, emphasizing that we are all in this together, because we are all still learning how to adapt to life during a pandemic.

“Being socially distant has changed my life dramatically,” Colo said. “I’m an extrovert at heart, and I thrive being around others. Not being able to spend time with people I know – and even strangers – has been difficult. I love to meet new people and create new connections and relationships. However, some positives are that it has given me a lot of time to find myself without the influence of others. I’ve been able to know what I like, who I am and to feel O.K. and at ease with myself.”

During the event, HCI coordinator Brittany Gottsch discussed her love for creating programs and events that allow students to feel connected to one another, while also receiving the resources needed to feel supported during difficult times.

She went on to discuss the positive aspects of life in this new normal, as well as what she hoped students would take away from Thursday’s event.

“Sometimes, it is hard for us to see the positives when it feels like there is so much uncertainty,” Gottsch said. “However, over the last year, I have seen the extraordinary resilience of our students – students that are still attending classes, clubs and meetings – excelling where they did not see possible… Remember you are never alone… HCI offers ways for students to get involved and connect, in person or virtually, through SASS, “Chill and Chat,” peer education or even at our testing clinics.”

There are endless ways to get involved and interact with other students who are feeling the same as you or going through similar situations, you just have to take the first step toward opening new doors and welcoming new connections.

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