Five ways to connect without going online

If more sedentary living hasn’t gotten you down yet, isolation and disconnect from support groups has almost certainly taken its toll on your mental health. When it feels like your eyeballs are about to jump out of your head, you’ve refreshed every social media app on your phone twice, you’ve already taken an Instagram Live dance class and Zoomed a dozen Zooms, how can you connect with loved ones without going online? In celebration of Dance Health Month—a series of workshops and articles focused on holistic health for those in the dance industry—we’re creating lists on ways to stay healthy and happy during social distancing. To start, here are a few ways to maintain social connections when we can’t meet up IRL.

Write a letter

Maybe you’ve already thought of this first one, especially if you’ve been trying to stay in touch with elders. For those of us with cell phones, the immediacy of a text or direct message can be incredibly tempting, but there is a special kind of satisfaction that comes from a handwritten letter inside a personally addressed envelope. Share a simple thought, add doodles, dot your i’s with hearts—whatever you like! Give your friends and family something special to look forward to.


If you live within the same city, this is a good opportunity to get in your shelter-in-place exercise. Walk to a friend’s house and leave a socially-distanced goodie on their doorstep. What do you have that others might need? Puzzles, bread, a cocktail in a jar? I recall my neighbors sharing an Amish Friendship Bread–if you have the yeast hook-up, now might be the best time to reinvigorate this old tradition.

Maintain shared experiences

It can be difficult to keep conversations going when you already have a general idea of what your friends are up to and how they’re feeling (sitting in their houses and feeling cooped up, most likely). One of the ways we maintain connections or emotional intimacy with our loved ones is by developing shared experiences, and forming a collection of memories that give us something to reference and talk about with one another. Try starting a movie at the same time, and texting each other thoughts and updates. Start a book club, or a “dance performance club”—the Dance Center of Columbia College has shared performances from their archives, for example. Connect with the dance professionals in your life by discussing thoughts and feelings about past shows, critically or otherwise.

Ride-by greetings

Grab your bike, mask and a helmet, and tell your friend to be ready outside. You might not be able to spend much time together, but you can still see friends, ring your bike bell, and get moving–safely distanced, of course.

Pick up the phone or talk out your windows

This last one’s easy. Maybe you’re really over Zoom, Facetime or Facebook Chat. It can be hard to stay focused, and video chat options aren’t always reliable depending on your internet connection. A good old-fashioned phone call offers the opportunity to hear a loved one’s voice (and continue pacing around your house). If a long phone call isn’t your thing, try sending a voice memo. Finally, as the weather gets warmer and you spend more time near the window or on a balcony, get to know your neighbors by chatting across your alleys and porches. You might even sing or workout together!


As a part of this week's focus on mental health, Erica Hornthal will lead an online workshop “Taking Care of Your Mental Health During a Pandemic” on Tuesday, May 5 at 11:30a CST. You can register for this free event by clicking the event link here, or by visiting the event page below.