Social distancing helps keep us healthy and decreases our risk of getting COVID-19. But extended periods of solo time can drive some of us to the brink of batty.
Those living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have been advised to stay at home for even longer periods of time, setting them up for a stir crazy situation.
So how do we stay sane while staying home? We compiled our eight top thoughts on how to survive social distancing.
What is Social Distancing?
Regardless of if you have IBD or not, social distancing is an important practice to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and to reduce your risk of severe symptoms and complications.
According to Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., at Johns Hopkins Medicine:
“Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet (about 1.5 meters) away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19.”
Humans are social beings and thrive on the need to connect. Feeling lonely is associated with health risks such as depression and decreased immunity. So during this strange and uncertain time when we’re stuck indoors, it’s important to focus on the things we can do and the ways we can connect.
Social Distancing: 8 Ideas to Help You Stay Sane
To keep your immunity strong and your intellect intact, try some of these sanity stabilizing suggestions.
According to Mayoclinic, exercise increases overall health and sense of well-being. It increases endorphins which are your brain’s feel-good chemicals.
Activity can also be a form of stress-relief. It helps release tension by shifting your focus to the present moment. This can result in increased energy, positivity, and calmness.
Check out: NHS 10-minute workouts.
Structure Your Day
Just because you can stay in your PJs all day, doesn’t mean you should (at least not every day). Getting ready in the morning and having a regular routine is essential to identity, productivity, and even sleep.
A Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology study found that when parents implemented routines, it helped improve moderate impulsiveness in children. Just like children, when we know what to expect, we feel more safe and calm.
-Aim to wake up and start your day around the same time.
-Try creating a realistic to-do list in the morning. When you create a bit of urgency, you’ll be more likely to get things done.
-Take breaks and eat meals around the same time and in the same setting (at the kitchen table, backyard, etc).
-If you work with a team, it could be helpful to report what you’re doing in order to stay accountable.
-Grab a calendar and give yourself a to-do for each day. Aim for a mix of productive and fun.
With social distancing, we can’t physically be around others, but with a bit of creativity we can connect and communicate with co-workers, friends, and family.
Thankfully, we live in a world that allows us to call, video chat, or text. Schedule remote dinners or coffee dates. If you’re celebrating a birthday, you can still enjoy a dessert or drink together. There are also plenty of social media groups that can help you share experiences.
Think about activities or small things you can do to connect with others. Make time to talk to someone and hear about their day. Or if you’re able to walk, smile or wave at the people you pass by.
Studies show that without social support, people are more likely to turn to negative coping strategies such as drinking or smoking. So lean into your support networks when you need them.
Adjusting to this completely different way of life can be strange and stressful. We should not take that for granted. It’s essential to be gentle with ourselves as we learn a new way of life.
Susan David, Ph.D, Harvard Medical School Psychologist and author of bestselling book, Emotional Agility, gave a perception shifting TED talk: How to be Your Best Self in a Time of Crisis. She shared how we can be flexible in a time like this and provided inspiring quotes such as:
“Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility.”
When we meditate, we lower our stress and connect with what’s going on inside ourselves. Try adding even 5-10 minutes of meditation or deep breathing into this new lifestyle. Mindful: How to Meditate.
As we feel like things are being taken away from us, it’s important to be grateful for the things we do have.
In Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive, she shares a study which featured participants who wrote down a list of positive events at the end of a day and why the events made them happy. They reported lowered stress levels and a greater sense of calm at night.
Start by writing down five things you’re grateful for every evening before bed. Focus on how you feel as you write these things down. Writing allows us to see more meaning in events, people, and things in our lives.
If you’re living with people, it can help limit loneliness but present other challenges such as tension or arguing. Without having your need for adequate space met, even your loved ones can get on your nerves.
To help reduce conflict, take some time away. If you have separate rooms, schedule personal times. If you have only one room, try putting on headphones, facing different directions, watching a show, reading, or meditating.
Part of passing time and keeping yourself motivated is to find meaningful things to do. If hobbies don’t do it for you, find things that will set you up for success once social distancing is over.
For instance, maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a new language. Or maybe you can build skills such as marketing, cooking, or painting.
Do something for the people you love. Send them pictures (digitally works if you don’t have access to the post) or a funny video to brighten their day.
Consider volunteering in a way that you enjoy. Research has found that participation in volunteering services predicts better mental and physical health, life satisfaction, self-esteem, happiness, less depressive symptoms.
Being prepared doesn’t necessarily mean that you should rush to the store and buy all of the toilet paper that’s available.
It means taking care of your wider health needs such as making sure you have enough prescription medications.
Nori Health is a digital coach who is there to support you in discovering and changing the lifestyle factors that impact your well being. She’s there for you 24/7 to listen to what you’re going through and provide tips to help you improve your life. She can help you find the foundation you need.
This is a difficult period of upheaval and uncertainty. NoriHealth team sends their love. support, and healthy wishes during this tough time.
For more mental health support options, check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness COVID-19 resource.
This article has been written by Lisa Booth, registered dietitian and nutritionist, and co-founder of Nori Health. Content is based on her professional knowledge, and our collection of 100+ scientific research study papers.