5 Tips To Overcome Loneliness While Social Distancing

As COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of millions around the world, Americans are being urged to stay home and practice social distancing to help slow the spread. That means that numerous non-essential businesses have closed, non-essential events canceled, and people are limiting their interactions with one another.

While all of this is for the greater good, the isolation can still get to people, generating overwhelming feelings of loneliness. And it’s not easy to get through the day when you experience loneliness. As a result, the pandemic is now more than a health issue, but also a mental issue.

However, there is good news so far. You can overcome loneliness – it’s possible. Here are five tips for coping with isolation and reducing feelings of loneliness, while practicing social distancing.

1. Practice Self-Care

“Take time out of each day to take care of yourself,” says Madeline Prichard, a content writer at Study demic and Australian help. “This may include catching an extra hour of sleep, or imagining someone giving you an uplifting affirmation – or maybe you can give that affirmation to yourself. Also, make sure that you’re eating right and staying active. The healthier you’re eating, and the more you exercise, the better you’ll feel.”

Also, take the time to self-reflect. In your mind, ask yourself how you’re feeling today. Know the difference between what’s temporary and what’s permanent. The pandemic shouldn’t get to you: Instead of saying “My life is forever changed,” think: “Okay, things are hard now, but I look forward to tomorrow.”

Editor’s note: While eating a balanced diet helps make sure you get a variety of nutrients, be mindful of eating disorder relapse or trying to reduce your food consumption out of fear you’ll run out of food. Now is not the time to be dieting or worrying about your weight.

2. Practice Breathing

As you meditate, incorporate breathing exercise. Even when you’re not meditating, practice breathing. No materials or equipment is needed to do this. 

Start with a few slow deep breaths, while focusing on the sensation of air going into your nostrils, and down your lungs. This helps you relax your body and mind while maintaining breath. 

3. Stay Productive – Occupy Your Mind

A good antidote to loneliness is keeping yourself busy with things you enjoy. If you’re feeling tired of doing the same old thing, now’s a great time to do something different. Maybe you’ve put off something for a good while, and you want to go back to it? If so, do that thing instead. And remember to start off small and focus only on what you can do, instead of what you’re “hoping” to do. Here are some good ideas on how to occupy your mind and find joy in variety:

  • Restart a hobby
  • Discover a new hobby
  • Tackle a new house chore
  • Read a book in a new way to mix things up – hard copy if you usually read digitally, or audio if you usually read hard copy
  • Do some exercise – some gentle stretching or a walk around the block for fresh air is a great way to stay active and give yourself time for your mind to wander and process things

4. Virtually Connect With Others

Now more than ever, it’s imperative to connect with people, even during this period of social distancing. Reach out to people through messaging apps, social media, etc. Or, you can be there for somebody who’s struggling right now, just by listening to them. But above all, it’s okay to express how you’re feeling, because chances are, you’re not alone in this pandemic, you’re not alone in the sadness, and you’re not alone in the loneliness. 

5. Stay Positive And Grateful

“It’s always a good idea to savor the little moments that give you joy in your daily life,” says Toby Aronson, a lifestyle blogger at Writemyaustralia and Studentwritingservices. “Whatever gives you joy, write it down somewhere so you won’t forget it. Also, stay positive with your thinking – appreciate the things in your life that you already have. Enjoy the time you have with your family, with your partner, and where there’s something that doesn’t stress you out.”

Social Distance Doesn’t Mean You’re Alone

Social distancing is what people have to do to try and contain COVID-19 — but along with these necessary steps come negative emotions in some people. In fact, people in social isolation will surely experience excessive points of loneliness now more than ever, even to the point of depression or thoughts of self-harm.

If you are feeling depressed or have thoughts of self-harm, don’t be afraid to reach out to a certified counselor or crisis hotline. There are always people standing by, waiting to help, despite the pandemic. If you suspect a friend is experiencing poor mental health, try reaching out to them to see if they’re open to receiving help. Sometimes just checking in with someone can alleviate their loneliness, but it’s important to remember that their mental health is not your responsibility – protect yourself with boundaries and know when things are no longer at a level you can help with. It’s okay to refer your friend to a professional who is trained to help them through crisis. 

For immediate help, call 911, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517).

Remember that although you may feel alone right now, just know that you’re not facing the pandemic alone. We’re all in this together.

Molly Crockett writes for Bigassignments.com and Stateofwriting.com, and teaches writing skills for Eliteassignmenthelp.com. As a health writer, she not only shares nutritional tips and great recipes, but also documents the ups and downs of her diet journey.

How to Work From Home for the First Time

A lot of us are working from home for the foreseeable future, some for the first time. It’s a big change to routine and it makes everything feel a little bit off. 

I’m used to working from home a couple days a week, but this feels different for me too.

Because it’s not really “working from home.” It’s being at home while big global events are happening and it’s not safe to do things you normally do…and trying to do your normal work.

It’s hard to focus, because you just want to go check the news all the time. But when it’s time for the show to go on, here are some tips for making work from home during this time feel a little more normal: 

  1. Shower and get dressed. It’s tempting to work all day in your PJs, but freshening up in the morning and getting some clean undies on will help you start the day in a good mood. This does not mean uncomfortable work clothes, just something clean and fresh. Stay comfy!
  2. Make a ritual. Normally we have a commute to mark the transition into and out of “work mode.” Create a morning and evening ritual to mark the start and end to your work day. This could mean making a cup of coffee and listening to your usual morning podcast or audiobook on the couch, taking an evening walk, or anything that helps you separate your day for work life balance when you work from home.
  3. Turn off your email. Just because you work from home and you’re home 24/7 doesn’t mean work is now 24/7. Separate work time and personal time by turning off your work computer or email program when it’s quitting time.
  4. Take breaks. Take your full lunch break and go outside if the weather is nice. Walk around the block for some fresh air. Take regular water and bathroom breaks, and give your eyes a break from screens at least once an hour for a few minutes.
  5. Make a shiny object list. When you’re working from home, you might be tempted to put in a load of laundry, quickly do the dishes, or take out the trash. These are fine to work into your breaks, but if you try to keep them in your brain you’ll get distracted. Keep a notepad nearby so you can write down the things you want to handle during break times. It’s also perfectly fine to save the household stuff for after the workday is complete; you don’t have to be the world’s most efficient person.
  6. Downtime is sacred. When you work from home, all the days can run together and Saturday might not feel any different. Make sure to plan relaxing, restorative, and creative time for your downtime so that you aren’t stressing over being productive all the time.

Any other advice for our work from home friends? Drop it in the comments. 

PS. I’m teaching folks how to improve their boundaries after trauma in a six week class. We start April 13, so there’s still time to reserve your spot. Shoot me an email and we’ll get you on the list.

Why Can’t We Stay The F*ck Home? Why We Need Social Distancing

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Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

We all know someone who is struggling with social distancing. Someone who is going from store to store, sort of understanding the risk but unable to help themselves and just sit down.

It’s annoying, it’s frustrating, it’s even understandable. Staying at home when you want to is one thing, but being made to do it makes you feel stressed and, well, isolated.

But let’s be totally clear: it’s dangerous.

What is Social Distancing?

Social distancing, or physical distancing, is the practice of maintaining a physical distance to prevent the spread of contagious disease. It’s not the same as quarantine, which is a complete lack of contact with the outside world, but people are using the terms somewhat interchangeably. 

Basically, stay in your home as much as possible, and when you leave your home, stay a minimum of six feet away from people. At the grocery store. On a walk. Wherever you go, there should be a six foot radius around you.

Social distancing in practice is a set of individual behaviors. For some, it means not leaving their house at all. For others, it means only going to work.

But some seem to think it means to carry on like normal but use hand sanitizer. 

Social distancing is how we buy time.

Time for our hospitals to treat those currently sick before more get sick. Time for the science to catch up. Time for better treatments to be found. Social distancing is the only thing that can buy us that time.

Social Distancing Makes a Difference

At CV-19’s minimum case fatality rate (CFR), 3.8% of cases will die.

Some people are on board with the idea that these people are going to die anyway, so why not just “save the economy” and stop social distancing?

Besides the obvious moral and ethical issues with sacrificing human lives for the good of the economy (I’m judging you), there are two scientific reasons.

1) Those people may not die if we can flatten the curve to allow time for more consistent treatments and preventive measures to be developed 

2) The CFR can increase 

Flatten the Curve

Every person has about 300 people in their network. At 3.8%, that’s about 11.4 people you know who will die if CV-19 continues to spread widely without any controlling measures. 

Eleven people in your life that some would say are an acceptable cost for the sake of the economy.

As hospitals fill up and ventilators are in short supply for breathing complications, the best thing we can do is make sure the virus spreads as slowly as possible and keep our vulnerable populations as protected as possible.

We can limit how fast it spreads with social distancing measures to buy those people that time. 

COVID-19 Fatalities By the Numbers

Number two tells us about maximum fatalities. Minimum case fatality rate has a maximum counterpart. Approximately 18-22% of confirmed cases have needed hospitalization. Globally, the rate is 20.2%, so that’s roughly the maximum CFR.

Ideally, we never determine the max CFR by experience, only by calculation. 

CFR? Percentages? It’s all technical language and calculation driven math. 

Remember those 11.4 people you know that some are okay with sacrificing to lift the economically impacting measures? If we lift the measures and overwhelm our hospital systems, that number jumps to 60.6 people you know that could die.

The minimum of 3.8% is IDEAL, meaning everyone has access to medical care. The maximum of 20.2% is what happens when our hospitals are overrun.

Right now, we’re trending up. 4.01% a few days ago, then 4.31%. 4.64%. 4.72% as of March 29.

That means among those you know, that 11.4 is already 12.6. 

The Psychology of Capitalism

We have trouble staying home because we feel like “staying home” means being useless and not contributing. The political blustering about the economy’s trouble due to social distancing hits this home.

We’re taught from a young age that our value lies in how much value we add to society. 

Productivity means we are valuable. We contribute. We have a real job. 

Anyone who can’t participate at the average level of productivity is shamed and made to feel guilty and less-than. Disabled people. Underemployed people. People who work minimum wage jobs – which, I may point out, are now being highlighted as the essential roles that are keeping our society running at all.

In times of stress and crisis, we feel helpless we want to feel helpful. We want to do something so we’re not just sitting at home feeling useless. 

Because productivity is intrinsically associated with our personal worth in a capitalist society. We can’t just sit at home when there are productive things to be done. Like grocery shopping, for example.

In times of stress and crisis (say, a global pandemic), once a few people start to panic and stock up a surplus of goods, it cascades and causes more and more people to hoard and compete for resources.

Those who can stock up are immensely privileged if they can afford to buy weeks’ worth of food at a time. Parents on WIC assistance can’t get the food they need when people have cleaned out the shelves in a blind panic. People who need to wait until their SNAP benefits renew so they can get their usual groceries may also face empty shelves due to the people with liquid cash coming through to fill their bunker with canned peaches.

It’s biological. The stress of an oncoming crisis, and the uncertainty that comes with it, increases cortisol production which causes an impulse to hoard resources. Prehistorically speaking, stress means you’re going to run out of food, so you have to go get the food before anyone else can.

But we’re in 2020, and despite the global pandemic going on, we need to remember that the stores are staying open and we will not run out of food.

We need less “every man for himself” and more community support and resource sharing. Even if that sharing just means leaving groceries for your neighbors.

Capitalism encourages competition over cooperation. We can consciously choose otherwise.

How to Social Distance Like a Pro

  • Cancel gatherings, outings, and social situations
  • Visit virtually, play games online, and meet your social needs as much as possible to reduce feeling isolated
  • Restrict grocery shopping to one time per week or less.
    • When shopping:
      • Shop via pickup or delivery, if possible
      • Take a list
      • Be flexible and prepared to make substitutions – you don’t need a specific brand of toilet paper or to go to 5 stores looking for it
      • Maintain 6 feet of distance from others
      • Avoid touching your face (you can wear a cloth mask to help re-train yourself away from frequent face touching – be sure to wash it frequently)
      • Be patient and give people space 
      • Avoid going to multiple stores (one store is enough exposure, get what you need and go home in one trip)
      • Bring along disinfecting wipes for your cart
      • Wash your hands thoroughly when you get home for 20 seconds with soap and water
      • Disinfect your phone and phone case when you get home, because you probably touched it a lot without realizing
  • Only go into public for groceries, necessary medical care.
  • Focus on mental health before productivity
    • Use telehealth appointments with your therapist
    • Free therapy is available at 7cups.com
    • Practice basic self-care like making sure you drink water, shower/wash your hair regularly, try to get some fresh air outside or open the windows, and eat regularly 
  • Don’t freak out about stress/comfort eating or snacking
  • Realize risk of infection increases exponentially each day, as cases increase, so if you’re going to need it, it’s better to get it today than tomorrow (prescriptions, food)
  • Tip your delivery drivers like your life depends on them

Choose Community 

Social distancing is hard because many of us are feeling isolated, helpless, and afraid right now. But it works, and it’s necessary.

Social distancing works, but only if you act based on the idea that YOU are infectious. Assume you are. Act accordingly. Keep those numbers down and help flatten the curve.

If you need to be productive, you can by helping others not feel isolated, not by running around. If you want to be productive right now, do something helpful from your home. 

  • Donate to charities helping support front-line healthcare workers
  • Share news stories about worker strikes for hazard pay and benefits
  • Create art and share it with others
  • Lead an online class in something you’re an expert on (people are learning all kinds of things right now)
  • Check in with friends to give them someone to talk to
  • Add joy to the world however you can

Data for this article was provided by Ash Roulston.