The threat of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a lot to take in. With social distancing (also called physical distancing), many who live alone or who are at home indefinitely with kids are facing a strange new normal. The day-to-day stress is one thing. But you may also be wondering if your job is secure, if you’ll have enough money, and how your friends and family are doing.
While you can’t control the world around you, you can take some steps to relieve the anxiety and stress of social distancing. Here are a few ideas to help you regain your sense of control:
1. Breathe and move
You’ve heard it before — it’s important to exercise. That’s truer now than ever before. Exercise is a great stress-reliever and mood-enhancer.
- Try to exercise every day, whether it’s alone, with your family members or with a friend via FaceTime. Many gyms and fitness organizations are posting free classes on Facebook Live and YouTube during this time.
- Go outside for your exercise if you can. Make sure to follow the guidelines and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others. Fresh air will do you a world of good. Getting outside for an hour a day helps relieve monotony and feelings of loneliness.
- Be careful and sensible in your exercise choices and avoid injury. Think twice before embarking on an activity you’ve never done. This is not a time to seek medical care unless absolutely necessary.
- Mix it up and involve the family in some of your workouts. If you live in a house that has a driveway, use sidewalk chalk to make a hopscotch game. Make sure you play with only the people you live with. There’ll be time for playing with friends later. Use the sidewalk chalk to write inspirational messages at the end of your driveway for passersby — “Have a great walk!” or “You can do it!”
When will you have another opportunity to spend this much time with your family? Rather than focus on the crazy, be mindful about the moments you have together.
Of course, being together 24/7 will get on your nerves. Plan alone time (see tip #3), but also plan fun activities for everyone.
- Morning yoga for the family.
- A quiet contest — first one to laugh loses.
- Movie night, dance contests, jigsaw puzzle weekend.
- Everyone look out a different window and sketch what they see. Share drawings with each other and with family on Zoom.
- Take turns planning and cooking meals. Play restaurant and let the kids serve you.
- Make an indoor scavenger hunt that keeps the kids occupied for a while.
- Everyone in the family will have ups and downs during this time. Encourage honest sharing of feelings. Use a whiteboard, chalkboard or big sheet of paper where everyone writes their high and low of the day, or something they’re grateful for. Talk about it over a meal to give each person a chance to express emotions in a constructive way.
- Apologize and forgive. Everyone is going to reach the end of their emotional rope at some point. Apologize after an outburst or unkind words. Forgive each other when it inevitably happens.
While it’s important to keep up with the news, try not to have the TV on all day and night. It can be overwhelming.
3. Alone time
No one can withstand 24/7 togetherness for weeks on end with their family. We all need alone time to replenish our energy and quiet our mind.
How do you get alone time when no one can leave the house or apartment? Be honest with each other.
- Let your family know when you need time alone — before you lose your temper.
- Consider scheduling two times a day when everyone has alone time. Space permitting, you can go in different rooms and read, use your computer, think, nap or just sit still.
- If you’re working from home, make sure your family members know when you can’t be disturbed, when you need quiet and how to signal to you when they really need something.
You may be experiencing more alone time than you’ve ever had. Take advantage of the opportunity to care for yourself in ways you might not have.
- Do a face or hair mask.
- Take a relaxing bath.
- Give yourself a manicure or pedicure.
- Start a journal.
- Practice meditation or watch a video about how to meditate.
- Learn how to do yoga, or learn another skill you’ve always wanted to try — cooking or speaking another language.
- Clean out your closet and drawers. That may not sound like self-care, but it might feel good to become more organized.
5. Care for others
Often we feel most fulfilled when we take care of others. Alone or with your family, think about those you know who may be alone or lonely.
- FaceTime them. Doing something that brightens someone else’s day will brighten your day, too, even if you can’t meet with them in person.
- Think about those who don’t have enough or are vulnerable — who can’t get out for groceries, who are sick or who don’t have transportation. When someone from your household ventures out to get supplies or you order online, try to get a few things for someone else or ask them if they need anything. It’s possible to help others in this way while maintaining social distance. You can leave items on people’s doorsteps.
- Stay in touch with your friends and family who are near and far. Make a point to connect with someone you haven’t talked to in awhile.
You’re Not Alone
We’re all in this situation together. It’s helpful to remind yourself that you’re not alone and that your feelings aren’t unique. Others can give you coping tips too, and perhaps by staying in touch, we can all give each other support.