How to Survive Social Distancing

“Everything you do has an impact. Who you are, that you are, actually matters.

We matter to each other.”
Paul Greiner

Social distancing — Step away from other people. As recently as late February, practically no one had
ever heard of “social distancing,” the awkward term for staying away from others to slow the spread
of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was introduced by public health officials in the last days of February
and it was trending on social media.

As panic about the highly contagious virus spread and the country shut itself down for who-knows-
how-long, social distancing means no hugs, no handshakes, no close in-person interaction. For some
today, it means no meaningful human contact for an indeterminate time, or weeks, or maybe
months? No one can say.

We all know this is might be hard to do because as a human, we need each other. By endowing
social connection with pleasure, oxytocin binds us together. It raises happiness and lowers stress
and increases kindness and charity toward others. In contrast, when we limit contact from people
and thus bereft of oxytocin, life can feel cold and empty.

Even when you’re healthy, not having social interactions can hurt both your physical and mental
wellbeing. Studies have shown loneliness can lead to diabetes, autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid
arthritis and lupus), and cardiovascular diseases. If you’re already prone to depression, anxiety, and
loneliness, you’re hit even harder.

What can we do to survive this situation? Here are the tips for you!

1. Stay connected.

Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. We can always use different
telecommunications methods to communicate. We can still have a Skype or FaceTime, call,
text, or a Zoom happy hour with our friends.

2. Allow yourself to smile.

Humor is a coping mechanism for all of us. We can share something good such as funny
memes or cute pictures with our friends. Letting someone else in on it and it will amplify the
good feelings you got from it.

3. Maintain a routine.

It is important to stick to a typical schedule: breakfast at breakfast time, schoolwork or
structured playtime during the day, and some activity in the afternoon. Put on some clothes
you wouldn’t be embarrassed to enter the office in and keep the TV off until you’re done for
the day. Try powering down Slack or email at the end of the day and take a quick walk
around the block.

4. Limit media.

It’s also important to get news from a trusted source regularly but it’s also not helpful to
read every single story you can. It’s difficult to think rationally and respond proportionately
when you’re engrossed in panic-inducing social media.

Social distancing is not just about keeping you from getting the virus. It is about keeping the virus
from spreading in the population in general. It’s not just about ourselves. Social distancing is
probably not too fun or that easy. But try to do it for yourself and others. If you feel the need to say
something like “they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom”, then remember there
are plenty of alternate ways to express your freedom rather than rebelling against social distancing.

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