Two years of social distancing really takes a toll. For periods, we’ve been afraid to be in close contact with all other people. We’ve covered our faces. We lost human connection. For many, social distancing meant social isolation, with a lasting mental health impact.
These past two years have taught me a great deal. At the top of the list for me is understanding that we aren’t always in control, that the people who work in our organizations are whole people managing full lives, and to extend maximum grace to those around us.
It also taught me the importance of managing stress and developing a strong support system, something that I never thought much about before these past two years.
In the very beginning of the pandemic, a friend invited me to a virtual poker night. I had a Zoom meeting on one half of the computer screen and an online poker app on the other. While we played small stakes poker, we chatted about all the things going on in our lives. It filled the void of grabbing a beer with a friend when our community was in full lockdown. It became a weekly tradition, and the group gelled over time, even though it included friends of friends, who had not all even met in person.
This weekly poker game is now going on two years. And really, the poker has just been the disguise to get a group of men talking to each other. We’ve compared notes on the best masks and how to handle our kids during the pandemic. We went through the presidential election together, the insurrection, the inauguration, getting vaccinated, and more. Recently, we covered March Madness and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with about a 50/50 split.
Over the course of two years, members of the group have really been there for each other. We know when someone has something big coming up at work, and we check on them. Guys have had babies, break-ups, and moves across the country, and we’ve created a weekly sounding board for it all. I wonder why we weren’t talking to each other like this before COVID?
So maybe an online poker game with a bunch of dads in their early 40s isn’t your cup of tea. But I encourage everyone to find a group of folks to be their weekly support. As our community continues to open up, maybe a paint and sip is your thing, or it’s time to join that adult kickball league you’ve been talking about. Whatever it is, we’ve now all experienced what it means to distance, and we’ve all been reminded how important closeness really is.
For our team here at Westhab, I’m constantly encouraging colleagues to take a day off, to book a vacation or staycation, or to do whatever someone needs to take care of themselves. It’s hard to always know what stress or anxiety someone is experiencing, and it’s never been more important to give people the time and space they need. Maybe a spa day is your poker zoom?
I will also admit, it is simply exhilarating to be dealt two aces and to really stick it to the guys who have helped get you through the last two years. Shuffle up and deal.