#yrStayConnected campaign helps shake the winter blues and foster human ties

·4 min read

Has the present situation left you feeling more isolated this winter than ever before? Are the seasonal blues getting you down? Reach out and make a connection – safely and virtually.

This is the message rolling out from the Region of York as their #YRStayConnected campaign heads into its third week.

Launched on January 18 to coincide with “Blue Monday,” a day purported to be the gloomiest day of the year, the campaign highlights ways to safely combat the isolation so many of us are feeling and improve our overall wellbeing.

“We all have a responsibility to follow public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including staying at home as much as possible and limiting close contact only to those in our immediate households,” says the Region. “However, it is also important that we continue to stay connected with others for our own wellbeing and that of others.

“Whether you’re feeling ‘Zoom fatigue,’ missing your friends, missing a loved one or simply feeling lonely, rest assured that you’re not alone in this. Although we can’t see one another as we normally would have before the pandemic, we can stay connected, there are safe ways to do it and it is important for our wellbeing.”

Among the many suggestions and tips being rolled out by the Region are alternatives to Zoom calls such as joining an online community of like-minded individuals to foster hobbies, enjoy a virtual book club, or even a painting lesson; seeking out ways to become virtually involved in your community; or sending thoughtful gifts to each other while shopping local; taking part in recipe swaps; reviving the pen pal system; or simply picking up the phone.

“I think what we’re getting out will help people try to stay grounded and try to stay connected throughout all this,” says Patrick Casey, Director of Corporate Communications for the Region of York. “It is trying times for everybody and nobody has ever gone through anything like this in our lifetimes. In the lead up to Bell Let’s Talk Day, we were talking amongst our team and thought maybe we could do a little bit more.”

From that kernel of an idea, the team set to work brainstorming ways that these human connections could be maintained when many are feeling these connections fraying.

“A lot of this isn’t new, but they are reminders for people because people get so caught up in the day to day that sometimes just thoughtful reminders really help,” says Mr. Casey. “Like joining an online community, picking up a hobby you might want to try online, if you can pick up [something like that], why not start now? It’s a new year, maybe it is a good opportunity to connect with others and you can learn something new by taking an online class and putting yourself out there. Even connecting with old friends, I think we get caught up in the grind and we don’t reach out as much as we could to try to talk to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. And that could be even within your own family with a relative, a grandparent, or somebody who maybe you would normally see on a more regular basis prior to the pandemic.

“Just reach out and connect, even just ask how they are doing. It’s the small stuff.”

Since the campaign’s launch last month, it has reached over 163,000 users on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. There have been 690 engagements with posts and many are re-sharing the Region’s messages within their own networks.

One piece of particularly meaningful feedback they have received from an online user thus far is, “It’s been fun to watch older folks like grandparents embrace technology for family video calls.”

“Bell references, ‘Let’s start the conversation.’ If this can help start the conversation and lift some spirits along the way, that’s all that matters,” says Mr. Casey.

To become a part of the online conversation and learn some new – or, perhaps, more traditional – ways to beat the feeling of isolation, visit York.ca/stayconnected or follow the hashtag #Yrstayconnected.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran