During the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, health experts and government officials have asked us to help battle the virus by keeping at least 6 feet away from others. Along with handwashing, social distancing (also called physical distancing) is one of the most important ways we can "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of COVID-19. A slower rate of infection helps doctors and hospitals keep up with the demand for care.
For many people, keeping a distance from others can be tough medicine to take. For an extrovert, being social is as basic a need as food and sleep. But for someone who prefers time alone, a directive to stay away from others is a dream come true.
The truth is, we all need contact with other people. Connections promote wellness. Human connection is essential for good health, especially when life presents situations that can cause increased anxiety.
The good news is social distancing doesn't mean being alone. Here are our 5 tips for staying engaged and connecting with others to stay positive and healthy:
1. Connect digitally
Although technology has taken its share of hits for causing isolation, during social distancing it can actually help build community and prevent feelings of loneliness.
Millions of people already depend on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to connect with people throughout the world. The platforms can be positive ways to communicate with people, learn and share ideas and skills. Make the most of being in touch by interacting with people and groups that use the platforms in a positive way.
Combining smartphones, computers and tablets with videoconferencing software and apps allow you to interact with people face-to-face, even if it's a screen-to-screen version. Most platforms are free or have a free version and accommodate as few as two people and up to a good-sized crowd at a time.
Going digital unleashes unlimited possibilities for staying in touch. Here are just a few:
- Start the day with friends and coffee or host an end-of-the-day happy hour.
- Join a virtual watch party of a movie or show.
- Host a digital dinner party and include a virtual cooking lesson of the main dish.
- Read grandkids a bedtime story.
2. Attend a class or event virtually
Schools, gyms, yoga studios and local attractions such as zoos and museums are getting creative, offering opportunities to enjoy what they offer digitally. Even better, most are making these services, classes and attractions available for free. For example:
- Check out the daily educational series hosted by the Philadelphia Zoo
- Museums are offering virtual tours like at Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution
- Google Arts & Culture allows you to browse works digitally from across the region
- ArtWell offers daily art activities on Instagram
3. Reconnect with family
Enjoy time at home with your family. All those things you've put off because there was never time can move from your wish list to a to-do list:
- Cook and eat dinner together.
- Blow the dust off games and puzzles.
- Hook up long-forgotten video games (remember the Wii and Dance Dance Revolution?) and get moving together.
- Teach and practice life skills such as cooking, doing laundry, sewing on a button or cleaning the bathroom.
- Plant a garden.
4. Have a neighborhood hangout
Social distancing doesn't mean total isolation. Driveways, yards and sidewalks make it easier to set boundaries while allowing neighbors to get outside and connect.
Get the kids involved and let them connect too with these ideas:
- Create driveway art with sidewalk chalk and have a neighborhood "gallery walk."
- Use washable markers to draw or play tic-tac-toe with friends on each side of windows or storm doors.
- Devise a neighborhood scavenger hunt, searching for a specific item (like a flag, a Christmas decoration, balloon, etc.) placed somewhere visible from the sidewalk.
5. Make a phone call
All the digital options available today make a simple phone call seem old school. But sometimes old school does the trick.
Just hearing someone’s voice can be enough to lift both your spirits. Asking someone how they’re doing can also be all it takes to be honest about feeling isolated and lonely. Even if a call ends up being a voicemail, you’ve let someone know you were thinking about them, which is always good medicine.