Social Distancing: How to Keep Connected and Upbeat

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In a time when “social distancing” to “flatten the curve” has literally hijacked life as we used to know it, it’s critical for our emotional health to stay upbeat whenever possible for what could be a long haul.

At the moment, though in this together collectively, we may have different coronavirus impact depending on where we live (the San Francisco Bay area, for example, has a mandatory shelter in place order).  Some of you may have kids at home that are doing some kind of online schooling (perhaps while you try to work if you’ve had the ability to do so remotely).  Others may still be going to work because your area has not been restricted yet or perhaps you are one who is considered an exception (in health care or other required social services).  And there are surely those who are terrified about fundamental needs and their economic survival if out of work during this pandemic.

One thing seems pretty clear.  It could be a while.  As we settle in inside to decrease the spread of COVID-19, now more than ever before in any of our lives is it important to stay connected with the people we care about and find ways to manage this situation the best way possible.

13 Ways to Keep Connected and Upbeat 

1- Implement some structure.  Even in normal times, many benefit from having a schedule of some kind.  For example, some people find working from home really challenging when there is too much fluidity and personal choice around when to actually buckle down.  Even a loose schedule during this time can be anchoring in that it creates a framework and flow as you move from one “to do” item to the next.  It can also reduce stress in that as you move through your schedule, you are more productive and actually have to think about it less.

2- The bottom of your in-home to do list.  Most of us can probably relate to what can happen to the bottom of any to do list.  It has a tendency to move, getting carried over from day to day to week to week.  With all of the home time you have, what a great opportunity to tackle those pesky bottom feeders.

3- Walk, fresh air, repeat.  Everyone is at risk for becoming too sedentary when socially isolating in their homes.  Not only is exercise critical for our physical health but getting outside for fresh air will give you a psychological boost too.  Whether you live in beautiful surroundings or a city environment, get outside and move to improve your mood and sleep quality.

4- Expand your creative horizons.  Like the bottom of the to do list concept, many have creative aspirations that they never get around to because they “don’t have enough time.”  Well, guess what?  You may have a bit more time.  Pull out your art supplies and let it flow.  If you don’t have any, check online for some to be delivered to you.  Apparently, a “study showed that making art reduces stress even if you kind of suck at it.” ?

5- Who else needs help?  What we know so far about the coronavirus is that older people and those who are immuno-compromised seem to be more at risk for serious complications and possibly death.  These people should be home and avoid going out at all unless absolutely necessary.  Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs a check in?  Can you offer to buy them groceries or pick up medications for them?  Research has shown that helping others gives us a sense of purpose, satisfaction and makes us happier.

6- That movie or book list.  Yes, there is a theme here of the “lists” that never get completed in our normal lives.  Many people have a mental or written list of movies they missed or books they would like to read.  Now’s the time.  Enjoy.

7- About that meditation practice.  Research fully supports the benefit of mindfulness and meditating, even for a short amount of time.  It can literally re-wire the neural circuitry of the brain.  In this situation we find ourselves in it can help lower stress, provide clarity and avoid nervous system hijack.

8- Let your fingers do the talking.  Thank you technology for what you can provide to combat social isolation.  Check in with all of your friends.  Create group threads where you share ideas of things to do, blow off steam or send stress reducing memes.  I have several with my friends discussing the challenges of having kids at home doing online school, keeping them from turning into zombies from gaming and the ongoing battle with boredom.  Of course you can also call people directly for a more personal connection but it seems phone calling sadly is considered “old school” by many.

9- Schedule a virtual group meet up.  One step up from texting is involving a group to see each other live via apps such as Zoom.  I am trying my first meet up this way in a few days.  Looking forward to “seeing” people even after only a handful of days of “shelter in place.”

10- Search the web for opportunities.  I just stumbled into this free Debbie Allen dance class being offered today (3/18/20).  I suspect there will be more offerings such as this by people trying to connect each other in helpful ways, to offer support during this challenging time.  Keep looking.

11- Write it out.  It would be totally normal if you find your emotions all over the place now as you wonder what’s coming, how you will manage your current situation and other factors like kids home, financial stress, etc.  For some people, journaling is very helpful to work through difficult emotions and find clarity.  Now might be a good time to start a daily practice of writing down what’s going on for you.

12- Talk it out.  Feelings can also be processed by speaking about them.  Whether it’s your partner, a friend or a family member, allow yourself that opportunity to unburden yourself.  If you are concerned that others aren’t in a place to hear you in that they are overwhelmed with their own situations, consider talk therapy.  Many therapists (including myself) offer tele-health options either by phone or video.

13- Look for the silver linings.  Let me start by acknowledging that the coronavirus situation that the world finds itself in is hard.  People’s lives are severely impacted and there many unknowns remaining.  If possible, as you go about your new schedule and life, look for unforeseen benefits.  For example, our dog Chili is thrilled we are all home as he is getting walks twice a day and lots of love.  My son and Chili spend a lot of time cuddling and the other day, he was even in his lap at his desk while he was doing his online schooling.  In this very challenging time, this is a silver lining in my home.  Is there one in yours?

Be well, take care of each other and remember that we are all in this together.

***If you are a resident of California, I am offering tele-health therapy support for those in need via California Online Therapy and Counseling. Phone, video or chat options and significantly reduced fees available for those in need.

***Anyone else looking for support I also offer one-time only educational Consultations (not to be considered therapy) to learn tools for stress and anxiety relief or other feedback on specific emotional health or relationship questions.

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