Most of us are feeling isolated at the moment.
For many, social distancing has meant giving up a sense of normalcy and missing out on opportunities to spend time with friends and family. Nerves and anxiety over financial uncertainty and the endless lousy news cycle can make joy seem like a distant memory.
But that doesn't have to be the case. As we navigate these unprecedented waters, we can do so together. Even with social distancing measures in place, there are still ways to find moments of joy and seek others' support.
Family dinners and nights out on the town may not be an option right now, but that doesn't mean you have to abandon your friends and family. Many of your loved ones are likely just as lonely right now, and some human connection can make a vast difference, even if it has to be from a distance.
Writing letters, taking the time for video conference chats, phone calls or emails, hosting a virtual happy hour, or any other form of communication you can manage is essential.
Staying in touch with loved ones is vital, but you should also use it to reach out to someone new. Take some time to get to know someone from your life a little bit better, or dive in headfirst and make a new friend altogether by signing up for a pen pal. There are many excellent pen pal sites, and picking someone from another country can be a great way to practice a foreign language or learn about someone else's culture¹.
Just because you're under isolation doesn't mean you have to give up on some healthy exercise's physical and psychological benefits. Staying active boosts your mood and keeps you feeling healthy².
Even while practicing social distancing, you can still stretch your legs in the fresh air. Walking or jogging is a good option; make sure you steer clear of other people. Even getting out and spreading your legs on the lawn or tending to a garden can help keep you active.
Living in an apartment or other tight quarters? Light yoga or gentle, low impact exercise routines are great for confined spaces³.
Spending your whole day at home can trick you into never giving yourself a break. Whether you're working from home or just stuck there all weekend, schedule some "you" time to unwind and reset. Never mistake physical rest for mental rest. Even if you haven't been out and lately, you have been exhausting your mind with work and worry, so give yourself the time to heal from stress.
It means genuinely relaxing, so leave your phone in the other room. Take some time to finish that book you've meant to get to, try a new guided meditation, or put it in a favorite movie. What you do matters less than that you let yourself indulge.
Your home is probably wearing a few more hats nowadays: gym, office, bunker, etc. Don't be afraid to redecorate a bit. Don't just plunk your laptop down on top of your old computer desk in the living room, go ahead and start moving furniture. Make yourself an office, a gym, or whatever other space you need.
Try not to do everything in one room right now. It can be tempting to post up in your living room or bedroom, but moving around your house during the day means you're getting a minor environmental change. And if you don't already have houseplants, consider getting some. Just adding a splash of green to your indoor environment can reduce anxiety and promote healing⁴.
How we behave and connect in times of crisis shows who we are as a community. If you're looking for support during this difficult time, consider being someone else's anchor. Reach out to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers and offer what assistance you can give. This could mean grocery shopping for someone who is high risk or just being there to listen to others' worries.
It's hard to know when things will return to normal. But humans are resilient and adaptable. We will reemerge from this crisis stronger on the other side. Use this time in isolation to strengthen the interpersonal bonds you have with the essential people in your life. Reach out to others, and you'll find that there is still plenty to be joyful about.
(1) Johnson, J (July 2018) Pen Pals 101: How to Find and Keep a Pen Pal to Practise Your Language Skills
(2) Harvard Health Publishing (May 2019) More evidence that exercise can boost mood
(3) Tedesco, S; Rothman, R (March 2020) 7 Best Yoga Apps You Can Use Anytime and Anywhere
(4) Nazish, N (February 2018) Think You Don't Need Houseplants? Science Says Different