Physical distancing can be emotionally dangerous.
In the face of this frightening global pandemic, we have been stridently warned to stay away from other people. Don’t get close to anyone. Don’t shake hands. Don’t touch, period. And while this may be an essential way for us to come together to contain the infectious virus, it can have the unfortunate effect of driving us apart emotionally.
We are hardwired for connection and without it, we don’t fair well. Each day we are being greeted with an onslaught of frightening statistics and foreboding forecasts coupled with new barriers to being in community. Along with our family and friends, many of us are learning of possible, probable, and even certain exposures. While isolation might be the best antidote for disease transmission, it is also a possible prescription for emotional suffering. And as hopeful as we are that the number of cases of coronavirus will decrease, the number of cases of anxiety and depression are likely to increase.
So what should we do? Quite simply, let’s band together to prioritize our mental health along with our physical health. Here are some simple steps we can take:
1. Make a daily plan to connect. As you sip your morning coffee, jot down a list of three (or more) people you will connect with outside your confined space. Writing it down makes it much more likely to happen. Think about who might need that support most. Is there someone you know who tends to feel anxious or depressed? Text, call, or even better, FaceTime or video chat. Host a virtual cocktail party or girl’s night. Technology is a fabulous conduit for safe interaction.
2. Laughter is the best medicine. Spend some time on social media or wherever you know there will be doses of humor . Not a social media expert? Just put Dr. Google on it. Even in dire times, we can laugh. All it takes is a run on toilet paper to start an avalanche of memes and jokes. Sending funny tidbits and posts to friends in a text or group thread allows you to connect over something positive.
3. Get outside. Nature and fresh air have a wonderful way of lifting our spirits and giving us some perspective. Many of us are confined to small spaces, making it all the more important to get out and stretch our boundaries. Even better, walk with a friend. Smile at everyone you pass. Even at a distance of three feet, the connections will warm your heart.
4. Reach out to help someone else. Make a financial contribution to a food bank, pick up food from a local restaurant or leave a container of soup outside a neighbor’s door. Any little gesture to support another person will be an affirmative step that will connect you to your community and will bolster the feeling that we can make a difference in the world under any circumstances.
5. Practice self-care and self-compassion. We all need to be aware of how this is affecting us emotionally. If you are being triggered by the news, by all means, limit what you watch and listen to. Be sure to move as much as possible. Even if you are binge-watching Netflix, make the effort to stretch, do yoga, lift weights, or plank every episode. Have a dance party! Be sure to do things that lower your anxiety levels like taking a relaxing bath, reading a great book, or baking that delicious dessert you love. Savor the moments. And if you feel you need additional support, reach out for it. Remember that the more emotionally resilient you are, the stronger your immune system will be and the more able you will be to support others.article continues after advertisement
So along with our physical well-being, let’s all remember to nurture our emotional well-being and do our best to lift the spirits of those around us. All connections, no matter how small, promote our collective health and happiness.
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