Social distancing is the phrase we use to describe the contact limits we are asked to observe regarding the COVID 19 pandemic.
It’s an oxymoron, a pairing of contradictory terms, like jumbo shrimp, act naturally, or my personal favorite, constant change. ‘Social’ refers to people coming together and ‘distancing’ refers to people separating from each other.
One characteristic of a successful oxymoron is that it has an effect on us. This is true of social distancing. Some believe it will become the new norm. If that’s true, it will come at a cost.
‘Making contact’ or ‘staying in touch’ is a basic human need. Joanne Kuller MS RN emphasizes not only the need for touch, but also the type of touch needed to raise a healthy baby. And even though the need is less pronounced, adults require some level of touch to maintain mental health.
With social distancing in effect, it’s more difficult than ever to achieve this need.
What can you do to maintain a healthy balance if you’re working from home for the first time, if you’re not working at all, or if you are just observing the guidelines for social distancing?
Here are four things you can do to create balance for yourself in these trying times.
Step One: Set a Daily Schedule and Stick With It.
A) Get up at a set time. Make your bed. Get dressed. Do what you need to in order to get going in the morning. This is especially true if you are working at home for the first time.
B) Have lunch at the same time every day. This is important to keep you on track as you go through your day.
C) If you’re working from home, stop work at a set time each day. Do not run the tank dry every day.
D) Go to bed at a set time. This is essential to create a predictable set of experiences in an unpredictable world. We need stability in our lives. This is your baseline.
Step Two: Get offline!
In the evening, take some time to leave the Internet behind to allow your brain waves to reset. There’s a chemical stimulus linked to using with electronics that is so addictive most people don’t even take the time to blink!
This is family time. Make a jigsaw puzzle, play charades, or chess. Take a board game you have on hand and create a tournament for the family. Be creative. Work in teams or as individuals, but make it fun!
Step Three: Read.
Reading is another way to create the balance needed for good mental health. Even as little as 15 minutes with a good book will help you reset your emotional clock. It doesn’t matter if it’s history or mystery, fiction or nonfiction. Read something that you enjoy.
Step Four: Quiet Time.
Because we are working so hard to stay connected, the one individual we may actually fail to get in touch with as a result of social distancing is ourselves.
Quiet time is crucial to your wellbeing. For some, it means sitting alone and listening to the rain. For others, it means taking the dog for a walk. For still others, this is a time for meditation. The key is to find time for yourself with yourself. This is where you recharge your batteries.
When we come to the end of mandated social distancing, I think there will be a recoil effect, a greater appreciation for making contact with friends and neighbors, coworkers and clients.
Maybe my eight year old said it best. My wife and I were discussing the specifics of social distancing. My daughter listened for a bit and mumbled; “Now you’ll know what it feels like to be in time out.”