A term for the times: Social distancing.
I don’t know about you, but I had never heard it before the COVID-19 slithered its way into our lives.
Of course, some of us are natural introverts. Personally, I’m not one to gleefully hug or shake hands. But some folks are — and this must be very hard for them.
“Social distancing can be tough on people and disrupt the social and economic fibers of our society,” Jagdish Khubchandani, a health science professor at Ball State University, said. “Given the existing crisis of isolation in societies—with probably the loneliest young generation that we have today—social distancing can also take a personal health toll on people, causing psychological problems, among many others.”
Whether we are a little introverted or not, we all crave human contact. If you’re sick, it is difficult to not give your kid a big hug or give your significant other a kiss goodbye.
The coronavirus has made us think about everything we do, in terms of human contact. The Center for Disease control said groups of about 50 were safe just a few days ago. Now that number is down to 10.
I went to Walmart last night and was wondering if I should be wearing a bio-suit.
But this is a serious situation and social distancing — a term epidemiologists use to refer to a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully stymie community transmission of the virus— is a big part in knocking this bug out of our lives.
So how do we balance normal existence with this era of social distancing?
Khubchandani has some suggestions I think are are worth sharing:
• Maintain a routine. As much as possible, social distancing should not disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, working hours, and daily activities.
I have the weirdest routine ever. It’s almost vampiric. And I’m still at it.
• Make social distancing a positive by taking the time to focus on your personality and personal health, reassessing your work, training, diet patterns, physical activity levels, and health habits.
I need work on my personality? I’m going to concentrate on limiting the amount of product I use in my hair.
• Carve time to cook for yourself and others in need. Add more fruits, vegetable, vitamins, and proteins to your diet (most adults in the United States do not consume enough fruits and vegetables). Get 2-3 meals a day.
And brownies work, too. And chocolate chip cookies. I like to bake, pandemic or not.
• Go for a walk or exercise at home. Definitely go out in nature as much as possible. Only half of American adults today get enough exercise.
I have an eliptical upstairs so I can catch up on Japanese wrestling while I work out. Hey, it’s multi-tasking.
• Do not let anxiety or being at home lead you to indulge in binge eating or alcohol and drug use. Don’t oversleep, but do sleep at least 7 hours. Our recent study found that more than a third of Americans sleep less than 7 hours.
I do not have that problem. Especially when there’s something on TV I really want to watch. And I still try to convince my wife I’m just resting my eyes.
• Social distancing can cause anxiety and depression due to disruption of routines, isolation, and fear due to a pandemic. If you or someone you know is struggling, there are ways to get help from a distance.
We just all need to take a breath. I know things look bleak. But we’ll make it. Trust me.
• Think forward and try to make best use of technology to finish your work, attend meetings, and engage with coworkers with the same frequency that is required during active office hours. The good news: Working from home can make people more productive and happier.
At the CJ, we are working from home some and limiting the number of people in the building. It’s just basic math (which I’m not very good at) — the less people you’re exposed to, the better chance you won’t get sick.
• Small breaks due to social distancing are also times to reassess your skill and training — think of an online course, certification, training, personality development, or new language to learn.
Personally, I don’t have enough time to do this. But you might!
• Engage in spring cleaning, clear that clutter, and donate non-junk household stuff. Household clutter can harbor infections, pollutants, and create unhygienic spaces.
My wife stays in this mode.
• Social distancing should not translate to an unhealthy life on social media. While you can certainly become a victim of myths, misinformation, anxiety, and fear mongering, you may also inadvertently become a perpetrator, creating more trouble for communities.
In other words, don’t be stupid on Facebook. Share stories which are actually generated by reputable news sources.
• Based on American Time Use Survey and leisure related time-spending patterns worldwide, we spend too much time on screen. Except for 1-2 times day to watch national news for general consumption and local news to check spread of COVID-19 in your own community, you are likely over-consuming information and taking away time from yourself and friends and family.
I’m guilty — no doubt about it.
• Engage in alternative activities to keep your mind and body active such as: listening to music and singing, trying dancing or biking, yoga or meditation, taking virtual tours of museums and places of interest, sketching and painting, reading books or novels, solving puzzles or engaging in board games, trying new recipes and learning about other cultures, etc.
Um, yeah, I can’t dance and no one wants to hear me sing. Ever.
• Do not isolate yourself totally (physical distancing should not become social isolation). Don’t be afraid, don’t panic, and do keep communicating with others.
This all is sound advice. And I’m sure some of you could offer other suggestions — things that you do to help you cope.
Just remember that this isn’t forever. And by practicing social distancing, we may be hastening the day when we can actually congregate again.
JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.