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Our New Normal

Surviving Physical Distancing.

How to Survive Physical Distancing

Social “Physical” distancing—even the phrase sounds dire "Social Distancing". Using the phrase "physical distancing" instead of "social distancing" as a way to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus from people to people. Even when you’re totally healthy, not having social interactions can hurt both your physical and mental well-being. Studies have shown loneliness can lead to diabetes, autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis and lupus), and cardiovascular diseases.

If you’re already prone to depression, anxiety, and loneliness, you’re hit even harder. And that’s when life is normal, not in the current Coronavirus culture.

 

In this new world of telecommuting, self-quarantining, and seemingly incessant hand washing, the impact may be even more dramatic.

There are a range of emotions people are expected to have right now:

Fear and anxiety. it’s 100 percent normal to be worried about contracting or spreading COVID-19. Here are the facts: The virus is contagious—experts say the rate of infection is 2-3. That’s high, but it’s not measles high, which is around 12. The problem is, symptoms can spread before anyone knows they’re sick and the virus can live on surfaces for a while—a day on cardboard and two to three on plastic or stainless steel. It’s also normal to feel anxious about getting food and supplies. We’re not used to seeing empty grocery store shelves or lines to get into the store.

Depression and boredom. Our normal daily routines are completely out of whack right now. Many of us are staying home, instead of going into work, kids are doing online learning instead of being out of the house. It’s nearly impossible to get into a rhythm with so much uncertainty. Add in the fact that you can’t go to the movies, restaurants, big parties.

Anger, frustration or irritability. This trio of feelings has its root in the fact that we’ve had to relinquish control of so many things at once. It may be directed at particular people, like the man in the grocery store who loaded his cart up with toilet paper and now you can’t find any; or it could be authorities who are imposing quarantines.

Create and follow a daily routine. Maintaining a daily routine can help both adults and children preserve a sense of order and purpose in their lives despite the unfamiliarity of isolation and quarantine. Try to include regular daily activities, such as work, exercise or learning, even if they must be executed remotely. Integrate other healthy pastimes as needed.

You’re stuck at home, either alone or with everyone in your family—and the only outing is a trip to the supermarket. Here’s how to get through it.

  1. Acknowledge what’s happening, and that it’s stressful. Because it is. “Denial is a remarkably adaptive skill but not mentally and emotionally health.”
  2. Develop a daily routine and stuck to it.
  3. Get dressed every day, even if it’s comfy yoga pants.
  4. Shower, brush your teeth, do you hair and make-up.
  5. Stay connected. Physical distancing does not mean social isolation. You can still FaceTime, call, text, have a Zoom happy hour with your friends.
  6. Try breathing exercises. Mindful breathing where you match your in breath with your out breath and focus on scanning your body is calming. You don’t have to spend 20 minutes, even three minutes will help.
  7. Be kind. It doesn’t just benefit someone else; you reap the rewards too. According to research, when you do something nice for someone else, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up. It’s called the “helper’s high.”
  8. Share something good. Even if it’s something small or mundane, like a funny meme or cute picture. Letting someone else in on it, amplifies the good feelings you got from it.
  9. Change your expectations. You add to your own stress levels by creating goals that are unrealistic. “Be easy on yourself,” “It’s not an easy time.
  10. Manage your news intake. It is way too easy to get sucked into press conference after press conference and then to check for updates on websites or to obsessively check in on the number of confirmed cases in your state. Being informed doesn’t require you to act like you’re a newsroom producer. It’s okay to set a few times a day where you’ll check in for updates.
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