Building Joy and Connection Even with Social Distancing


Use this time for family time–make music together, read aloud, share stories, learn a new skill!

Change is hard.  And to help protect the elderly and immunocompromised members of our community, we’ve had to change and adapt fast.  The need for social distancing means that we need to be at home, away from our usual social haunts or work environment.  We’re being barraged by horrible news from all over the world, and this only adds to the stress.  Can we still find our hygge (hoo-ga) amidst all this turmoil?

As a former homeschooler who has my own business right here on our farm, being at home all the time feels exceptionally normal.  So, here are a few tips I can offer for making your “sheltering in place” experience more comforting, creative, and social (even at a distance).  Take whichever pieces feel right to you and try them out this week.

Take a Walk

No ear buds, no phone calls.  Just you, the dog, and the Northwoods.  Listen to the sounds of the woods awaking in the warming days—birds singing, squirrels scurrying, deer munching.  Breathe deeply and pay attention to the sensations in your feet as you walk.  Mother Nature is going about her seasonal shift, uninhibited by the current social mess.  Repeat this practice daily or as much as possible.

Make Fika a Daily Practice

Pick either late morning or early afternoon, whichever works best for you, for a hot cup of tea or coffee (this has been found to help fight COVID-19), a tasty snack like a homemade muffin, and time to check in with loved ones.  Really give this hour your whole, un-scattered attention.  Call your folks, Skype the grandkids, text a friend, whatever means feels right to you.  Handwrite a letter even!  Share stories and feelings with those sharing your home as you sit together for this moment of connection.  Emotional isolation kills, so while we must be physically apart, we can still let each other know that we care.

filling felting kits
Filling needle felting kits for students. Because we cannot hold live classes at this time, this offers an adaptive technique that still fosters creativity.

Get Creative

If you’ve always wanted to learn to (fill in this space), well, now’s the time to do it!  There really are no excuses left when you’re stuck at home with all those materials you bought but never took out of the case/closet/bin/box/shelf.  Head on over to YouTube University, find someone who’s offering classes in your area online, dust off the books you bought, or find a friend who can video chat your way through getting started.  I’ve had to cancel my needle felting classes, and instead made kits to send to all my students, complete with a link to video tutorials, so it feels like sitting in on a class.  Give me a holler if you want some of these sent your way to get you started.

Dust It Off and Finish It

Ok, you know what it is—the quilt, the chair, the album, the novel, the painting…that project you started but then got distracted and never got around to picking it up again.  I’m as guilty as anyone else for having unfinished projects around.  I tried counting them one day, but when I got to 30, I just stopped; it was too daunting.  This week, I took a bite out of the pile and turned several “painting with wool” needle felted pieces into beautiful sketchbook covers.  I felt so accomplished!  It’s infectious, in a good way.  Start finishing things and then post about them on social media.  Recruit your friends to finish their projects.  We’ll all have home and studio makeovers by the time this is over and feel great!

Read Aloud

This was always my favorite part of homeschooling, and we still continue this tradition (though at a less intensive rate) today. Usually, Mom is the reader, with her soothing voice, while everyone else works quietly on projects about the living room (hey, this brings several of these hygge elements together!).  Choose an old favorite or try something new—a novel, a mystery, a history, a socially engaged book, whatever you’d like to read together.  You can even take turns reading chapters.  It’s a great way to slow down the pace and break away from the boob tube and the smart phone addictions.


Offloading your feelings onto the page is a time-honored way to make it through tough times.  Draw, doodle, rant, cry, wonder.  The page can take it all without complaint.  This may be especially helpful if you are having to shelter in place alone.  Tape in photos or notes from loved ones, dream about summertime, reminisce.  Emotions are complicated, and often those first couple of pages are only scraping the surface.  Keep writing through the resistance to get to the stickier stuff below.  When you shed light on what scares you, often the monsters don’t look as big and fearsome as they did in the dark.  Do the internal work necessary to come out of this in a stronger, more authentic place.

kale salad
Making healthy, homemade meals for your family is a great act of caring and kindness.

Choose Kindness

We’re all in a tough spot with the COVID-19 situation.  This can make us feel edgy and unforgiving, but that only causes more pain.  Instead, each day, choose kindness, whether it’s when you are interacting with others (at a safe distance), online, or on the phone.  Choose kindness with your pets, your family, your neighbors.  Be patient, anticipate need, show support.  While at first it may feel like you don’t have the energy for it, kindness gently feeds your soul, helping you to cope with depth you didn’t know you had.  Trust the process and choose kindness.

Wishing you all health and safety through these trying times.  May we all cultivate our own version of hygge in place.  The world outside is still beautiful—the birds will return, the days lengthen, the buds pop.  Keep your spirits up, tend to your vital heart, and wash your hands.  Know that we at North Star Homestead Farms are doing our part, leading through example as we adapt while continuing to serve.  See you down on the farm sometime.

Laura and chicken
Laura with a chicken

Laura Berlage

Laura writes our weekly “Down on the Farm” column (launched in 2012), which is featured in several local newspapers. Her winter 2019-2020 theme is the Danish concept of hygge (hoo-ga), which fosters is a culture of comfort, creativity, and joy in everyday living.