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Coping with Isolation and Social Distancing

  • March 27, 2020
  • Anxiety, Patients and Families

In these unprecedented, uncertain times when many of us are isolated, stuck at home and separated from friends and family, fear and stress are natural reactions.  With so much of what is happening out of our control, it’s helpful to focus on what you can do to take of yourself and your family. Keep in mind people react to stressful situations in different ways.

Pay attention and follow guidelines for social distancing, handwashing, cleaning surfaces, etc. Also pay attention to your physical and mental health. Taking care of yourself and working to minimize the impacts of stress will not only make you stronger and more resilient, it will also help be better able to support your loved ones.

  • Stay informed, but don’t overload on news. Keep updated from credible sources (such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health authorities).
  • Stay connected - talk, text, call, video chat, social media—use whatever works for you to stay in touch with friends and family. Many people are coming up with creative ways to use technology to connect. Here’s one suggestion for connecting with family posted online by a reader at Buzzfeed:
    “My family and I all live in separate states. Once a week, we have a family dinner over Skype or zoom, we each have to cook a new dish, and come up with topics that have nothing to do with the virus. Even though I am an introvert, living alone right now is overwhelming. It’s nice to have something to look forward and to know I have a support system. Finding new recipes and coming up with new topics helps take my mind off of all the anxiety I’ve been having lately.”
  • Get up and move, exercise – get out to walk or run, safely with distance (6 feet) from others (and following any local guidance or regulations). There are many free resources online for all fitness levels for many different types of exercise – try a video yoga class, or tai chi, strength training, cardio classes, and many others.
  • Get creative and explore interests – get back to a hobby you used to enjoy or explore a new one. Take that class (online) that you always wanted to but never found the time.
  • Healthy eating and sufficient sleep can help keep your immune system strong and support mental well-being. Nutritional psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, M. D., suggests focusing on key nutrient dense foods that help support your mental health: greens, nuts, beans, seafood and a little dark chocolate. Slow down and truly be present at the table. Slowing down and eating more slowly can help you absorb more nutrition, Ramsey notes. Experiment with new recipes, even if you may need to get creative with substitute ingredients.

If you’re working remotely try to set and stick to a schedule, take frequent short breaks to walk, stretch, get outside. Take some time, just as you might in person, to check-in or chat with coworkers. See more on Working Remotely During COVID-19: Your Mental Health and Well-being from the Center for Workplace Mental Health, an initiative of the APA Foundation. See also a general resource on remote work communications.

If you need immediate help, connect with a trained counselor


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