Social distancing has been proven one of the most effective means of stemming the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
Unfortunately, social distancing – such as not attending large outdoor events with 100 more people – also means not venturing out into public as much and not doing some of the things you enjoy, like going to work or church, and not getting to see many of the people you care about.
Paradoxically, social distancing makes it harder to find social support at a time when we might need it the most. But if we are creative, we can explore ways to enhance our self-care. Here are a few tips for staying mentally and emotionally healthy during this time:
Social distancing does not mean social isolation. We often think, “I wish I had more time to spend with my loved ones.”
Here’s the good news: While social distancing precludes attendance at large gatherings, you could actually get to spend more one-on-one time with your family. Think of it as an opportunity to have the kind of conversations you dream about.
Try busting out the old board games, and doing various activities with one another. For those living alone, a great use of technology would be to reach out to loved ones via video chat to stay connected.
Long hours of isolation are unhealthy for everyone.
Social distancing does not mean you cannot go outside. Actually, scientists say, exposure to fresh air helps reduce the spread of viruses.
Research also underscores the positive impact of exercise on the immune system. So take this time to take hikes or play ball in the park – by yourself or with loved ones.
Spending at least an hour outside is best.
Even if you’re inside, try to keep the windows cracked. You might feel rejuvenated, and it could be a nice break from cabin fever.
Use this time to connect to something deeper within yourself. Our lives are so hectic that it can feel we’re just treading water amid our “to do” lists.
How many of us really yearn for more time spent in reflection, creative expression, music, dance, spiritual practice or self-care? This might be a good time to think deeply about where you are in your life.
What makes you grateful? Are you living a healthy and meaningful life that brings out the best version of yourself? Do you need to make changes?
Keep things in perspective. In the face of an unknown threat, we tend to feel unsettled and lacking control, unable to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
But while there may be a certain amount that we cannot control, we should focus on the things we can control. For example, it’s important to follow recommendations from the authorities and take proper precautions.
We should focus on controlling how we respond to this situation – and how we communicate about it. We can control whether or not we make this event the entire focus of our day, or instead check in with an authoritative source once a day.
That way, we can enjoy the rest of our time with loved ones and connecting to deeper parts of ourselves.
The truth is each day is a gift, and none of us knows how long we will live.
How do we want to spend this time we have been given? How can we live in such a way that we will not have as much regret later? How can we stay in the power of the present moment, and all of the beauty that exists within it?
If we keep these things in perspective, we will not only feel better during this trying time, but we can also set the foundation for a much different life going forward.
Dr. Shawn Sidhu is training director of the University of New Mexico Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship Program and a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.