Tired of Social Distancing? Fun Websites and Apps to Stay Connected

Fun Websites and Apps to Stay Connected during social distancing

By Jennifer Larson, contributor

Are you getting a little weary of social distancing? You’re not alone.

Many nurses and others around the country are missing their friends and family members, even as they know they’re doing the right thing to reduce the chance of contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus.

Even so, don’t give up on maintaining connections with your friends and loved ones.

Staying connected to other people is crucial for nurses’ mental and physical wellness, according to Cristina Dorazio, PhD, psychologist with Unity Psychological Counseling in New York City. Humans are wired for connection. Connecting helps your brain release oxytocin, which in turn, can lower your blood pressure and your cortisol levels and even help you sleep better.

“It is important for nurses, especially now, to make the effort to stay connected to others so they can reap both the physical and emotional benefits and stay grounded as they do this important work,” said Dorazio.

Check out these fun online opportunities to stay connected while social distancing. Even as the country continues to open up, after weeks of stay-at-home orders, these digital tools can be sources of connection for travel nurses and others.

15 top websites and apps to help nurses stay connected

Zoom. Certainly, Zoom has become central to many people’s lives during the coronavirus pandemic.  The site makes it easy to schedule a live video call with your old classmates from nursing school, with your family, with your neighbors and friends from back home.

Instagram. Curate a list of your favorite accounts to follow on Instagram and include people whose posts make you smile. And of course, you can choose what to post and share with your own followers–on your own schedule.

Online games. You can’t really enjoy a good board game by yourself, but thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can play many board games online with others. Settlers of Catan and Monopoly are popular free choices, but if you’re willing to pony up a few dollars, you can play other online games like Ticket to Ride. Free card games are also available on sites like TricksterCards, which allows you to see fellow players while enjoying Spades, Hearts, Euchre, Bridge and more.

Marco Polo. Remember raucous games of “Marco Polo” at the swimming pool when you were a kid? You can use the Marco Polo app to leave fun video messages for your friends–and look forward to watching the ones that they send to you! It can be a great option for connecting with folks on a different schedule (or in a different time zone) than you.

Active.com’s virtual races. If you’re a runner or a walker, this is for you: Active.com's regularly-updated list of virtual races from coast to coast in which you can participate while still social distancing. Choose a 5K, 10K, half marathon or even a full marathon. Text a friend and ask him or her to be your running buddy and sign up with you. You can message each other while you train and encourage each other to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Discord. Discord started in the gaming community, but has expanded to a much broader audience.Download Discord and you can have text discussions, voice chat and video chat channels all in one place. Connect with your book club, your dance class buddies, your cousins, or anyone else with whom you want to have an ongoing connection.

Netflix Party. You can download this Google Chrome extension for free and watch shows on Netflix at the same time as your friends, while group chatting (and criticizing wardrobe and casting choices) simultaneously. You can create a watch party via Netflix Party or create your own. (Since there’s no video feature, you can wear your jammies, too.)

Ravelry. Ravelry is a free site for knitters and crocheters with a large, active membership. (Remember all those folks who made the ear bands with buttons for face masks?) Whether you’re picking up a new hobby or returning to one that you set aside, you can connect with friends from all over the world and participate in forums and discussions focused on the fiber arts.

Houseparty. Houseparty bills itself as a “face-to-face social network” that you can download and use on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Gather up seven of your friends and create a video chat “room.” You can also play online games with your friends through Houseparty or “float” to other rooms to see if you’re missing something more interesting over there.

Fitness programs. Miss going to the gym? Check out an online fitness community like MyFitnessPal, Bodyspace and NerdFitness and get access to workouts and connections with other sweaty, like-minded individuals.

Don’t forget that you don’t always need an app—you can also pick up the phone and call someone to talk, noted Dorazio. Sometimes it’s easier to talk by phone, since it can take a lot of energy to stay focused on a video screen as you would with Zoom or FaceTime. You can call fellow nurses to check on them and see how they’re doing, or schedule a phone call with your friends and family back home.

Also, don’t hesitate to look into finding a therapist, many of whom are offering telehealth appointments right now. In fact, Onward Healthcare’s travel nurses have access to virtual therapy appointments as part of their benefits package.

“Take the time now as a means of prevention to speak to a therapist and learn healthy ways of coping with the trauma of this pandemic,” said Dorazio. “We do not want to see you burn out from this experience or suffer extreme mental health consequences.”

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