With the COVID-19/coronavirus health crisis affecting the US and more than 200 other countries across the world, we live in scary times. If you feel anxious, terrified, overwhelmed, stressed, confused, angry, depressed, annoyed, or frustrated, you are not alone. A very wide range of emotions are considered normal and natural during this difficult and unprecedented period in history.
One of the more challenging aspects of our new reality right now is “social distancing.” By now, we all know this term very well. Social distancing means increasing the physical space between people to help reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
This not only means no more handshakes or hugs to say “hello” or “goodbye,” it also means avoiding any type of gathering (school, church, sporting events, concerts, bars, restaurants, weddings, etc.). In fact, many cities and counties have issued stay-at-home orders, making it nearly impossible for people to congregate in large groups (and thank goodness for that!).
When you do go out for essentials like groceries or prescriptions, you should stay as far away from other people as possible. Ideally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends, at least six feet of space between people. That way, if you happen to be near someone with COVID-19, you’ll be a safe enough distance to avoid inhaling infected droplets from a cough or sneeze.
An Unfortunate Necessity for Disease Prevention
Without a doubt, social distancing is a huge challenge in our very social society. People of every age are affected by these limitations—from school-age children who are no longer able to go to school or play with friends, to vulnerable (sometimes lonely) seniors not being able to get visits from loved ones.
And let’s be honest, if you’re not a homebody by nature, avoiding contact with the outside world for the indefinite future may be akin to mental and emotional torture.
It’s easier said than done, but try to be patient while we work as a society to “flatten the curve” and get through this pandemic together.
Yes, social distancing is hard. But we are all in this together.
Here are some ways to stay emotionally healthy and as socially connected as possible while at the same time physically social distancing.
- Stick to a routine. Try to keep the same or a similar routine to the one you had before the mandate for social distancing. If that’s not possible, create a new routine for the time being. This can help bring a sense of purpose to your day. Be sure to include a healthy breakfast, meditation or journaling for stress reduction, and exercise. And speaking of exercise…
- Try to work out every day. Gyms may be closed, but exercise should not fall by the wayside. Not only does physical activity boost immunity, it releases feel-good endorphins that can help lift your mood and spirit. If you belong to a gym that has temporarily closed its doors, see if they’re offering virtual/online classes. This is a great way to interact with your workout buddies and/or trainer while also getting in a good sweat session. There are also countless free online resources, so take advantage of them! If you don’t know where to start, check out https://hasfit.com or search YouTube.
- Connect virtually. If there’s any bright side, it’s that we live in a time when face-to-face interaction from afar is easier than ever. Skype, Facetime, Zoom, Google Meet, and GoToMeeting all allow you to video chat with your loved ones as if you’re sitting right next to each other. If you want to connect on a deeper level, share dinner or a happy hour, or even dance together, using these services. If you’re prone to anxiety about COVID-19, avoid discussing this topic altogether. Focus on the positive things going on around you.
- Bring back old-school communication. Remember the excitement you used to feel when you opened your mailbox and saw a letter, card or postcard from a friend? Now’s a great time to bring back these “ancient”—but meaningful—methods of communication!
- Find new social groups online. Have you always had an interest in sewing, painting, cooking, crafting, automotive repair, or some other hobby? Consider exploring it further. Search for online groups and meet new people who have similar interests. You may even form new long-term friendships.
- Check in on neighbors. Staying in your house is ideal at this time, but getting outside for some fresh air is equally important, as long as you maintain a healthy distance between you and others. Go for a walk around your neighborhood and check in on neighbors by leaving some freshly picked flowers, fresh-baked cookies, or a simple Post-It note on the door. If they’re already outside, there’s no need to avoid them. Just have your conversation six feet apart!
- Stay positive. It may not feel like it right now, but this, too, shall pass. One day, we will look back on this crazy time in our lives and remember how resilient we were as a nation—and planet.
And, I can’t stress this enough, if you need extra support beyond family and friends, don’t hesitate to find a counselor or therapist. Many are offering video, phone, or online sessions right now for free, or at a reduced cost. Take good care. Please stay safe and stay healthy.
Last Updated: April 9, 2020
Originally Published: March 31, 2020