OTTAWA -- An Ottawa therapist is encouraging people to take steps to keep connected in the new era of physical-distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches has suggested people limit their physical contact to only those inside their household to help limit the spread of novel coronavirus.

But while we are asked to keep physically distant from friends and loved ones, Registered Therapist Nataxja Cini of Family Therapy says it’s important you don’t disconnect from your social network.

“Now that many of us are not going to work and interacting with people on a daily basis, we are feeling lonelier and more socially isolated as we fight the coronavirus,” said Cini.

Cini shared with six tips to minimize the risk of being lonely when you’re cut off from direct human contact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spend time talking with your friends and family

Cini recommends you take time in your day to call and video chat with family and friends.

“Take advantage of the internet and spend time chatting by video,” said Cini.

“Seeing someone’s face while we’re having a conversation makes social distancing a lot easier. This is the time we need to connect more with our friends and our family.”

If you don’t have a source of internet, Cini says “regular phone calls will be increasingly important for friends and families to remain connected, especially for people who are marginalized or who do not have access to reliable internet.”

Offer to help your neighbours, family and friends

Cini says reach out to your neighbours, family and friends and “ask how they’re doing, how you can assist in any way. Many people will be struggling during this pandemic, especially families returning from March Break or being a snowbird.”

Groups are popping up on social media and communities called “care-mongers.”

“Join your local care-mongering group to help get food or run errands for people who can’t leave home,” said Cini.

“There’s no face to face contact because of social distancing but volunteering and helping others is a great way for you to feel connected with your larger community.”

Get outside and say hi safely

Public health officials have encouraged people to stay at least two metres away from others while practicing physical distancing outside.

Cini says “this doesn’t stop you from going for a walk in your neighbourhood, and waving or saying hi to anyone you pass.”

“Even that little bit of social contact, smiling at someone, and saying hi can help you feel connected.”

Spend time with your pet

Now is the time to spend more time with Fluffy and Fido.

Cini says pets can help combat loneliness.

“Playing, cuddling and even talking with your pet can be helpful,” said Cini.

“Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce your stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness especially when you’re feeling down. There’s a reason why dogs are everyone’s best friend.”

Create a virtual get together

As gyms, restaurants and bars, community centres and other places that people gather shutdown, Cini notes things are moving online.

“For the gaming community, there are numerous gaming sites where friends can play with each other virtually. This isn’t new as your teen or you may know yourself.”

Cini notes there are virtual yoga meet ups or workout sessions, virtual dance parties and other groups available online.

“With many gym and sports centres closed, there are virtual yoga meet ups or workout sessions .Gyms and several streaming fitness companies are offering their online workouts for free.  Get in touch with your trainer, working out together.”

Cini adds religious organizations are offering prayer groups, and religious services are being broadcast online.

Reach out for help for yourself

This is the second week that many people have had to stay home from work and school, or avoid social functions due COVID-19.

Cini says “having to stay home, stay away from people you love and care for and our severely reduced contact with other human beings is making this very difficult and challenging for everyone.”

Cini encourages you to take advantage of the online and telephone mental health resources that are available to use by phone.

“If you are feeling that social distancing is making you feel overwhelmed, distressed or depressed reach out and speak with someone today,” said Cini.

You can connect with Registered Therapist Nataxji Cini of Family Therapy at

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