- A sudden uncontrollable desire to jump in your car and drive somewhere—ANYWHERE.
- Waking up from a nightmare about screaming banshees, only to realize it’s your kids.
- Endless scrolling through Yahoo News or cat videos.
- Waiting to shower until later today—okay, tomorrow.
- Not having the slightest idea what day it is.
I think most of us are suffering from SDID right now, in one form or another. It’s pretty tough to stay sane while social distancing. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, join the club—there’s a lot to be anxious about!
Here’s a critical point, though: You’re not alone. We’re all social distancing. Most of us have never experienced this type of situation—unless you were around for the 1918 pandemic. If so, KUDOS! You’re looking good at 102!
Yes, it’s a stressful time right now, to say the least. That’s why it’s so essential to develop healthy habits during these weeks of social distancing—and that definitely includes your mental health.
Here are a few ways you can begin to regain some much-needed sanity in a world that’s clearly not sane at the moment.
Start “social distancing” from the news
Just because we’re in an age of 24-hour news coverage, doesn’t mean that you have to ingest it for 24 hours!
I can tell you about all the studies that have shown what a constant stream of negative news does to your mental state, but I’m sure you already know it. It’s a monster that feasts on your anxiety. The more you watch the news, the more that monster grows in your brain, and the hungrier it gets. Stop feeding it!
You don’t have to bury your head in the sand. (A total myth, by the way. Ostriches don’t do this, and never have.) Go ahead and get a daily dose of news, to keep yourself informed, if that’s what you need to do. Just do it for a short time each day, then move on to other things.
In case you haven’t noticed (just kidding, I know you have), news tends to repeat itself on a constant loop. After about 15 minutes, you’ve heard all the latest horrors. I usually look at the news in the morning and give myself a half-hour time limit. That’s enough for one day, believe me.
At first, it may be tough to be so “disconnected” from what’s going on minute by minute in this crisis. But honestly, don’t you think that if something significant were to happen, you’d hear about it?
Of course, it’s vital to stay informed, but “being informed” is a whole different ballgame than being terrorized by news reports. Here are some websites I recommend, where you can get unvarnished information:
- CDC. The Centers for Disease Control have excellent data on the virus and how to protect yourself and others.
- WHO. The World Health Organization has a separate website set up just to answer your questions about the Coronavirus. It’s exceptionally informative.
- SAMSHA. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has also set up a website filled with helpful resources and information.
All these sources are there whenever you want to look at them, and they’re much less likely to have you screaming at the screen or drinking an entire bottle of wine in one sitting.
Start each day with gratitude
That’s right, gratitude. Every day, right after I wake up, I think of the things I’m grateful for. I’ve been doing this for years, and I know that it’s helped me have a happier life. I’ve also started a practice of getting my husband to tell me what he’s grateful for each morning. He’s a tough nut to crack, I’ll tell ya, but I’m working him over.
Don’t believe it works? Oh, ye of little gratitude. Numerous studies have been done on the effect of gratitude on the brain. UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, for example, has done studies on how regularly expressing gratitude literally changes the molecular structure of the brain. Gratitude, per their studies, also keeps your gray matter functioning well, and makes you happier and healthier. (Full disclosure: UCLA is my alma mater, but I would have shared this information regardless.)
You can start the practice of daily gratitude the way I did, by thinking of things you’re grateful for each day. Here are a few other ways as well:
- Keep a gratitude journal. A lot of people do this, and it helps them to write down what makes them grateful. I’m writing down what’s keeping me sane while I’m social distancing, and it’s helping.
- Tell someone else something you appreciate about them. It will make both of you feel good.
- Look at yourself in the mirror—come on, you can do this!—and think of something you like about yourself. You can even talk to yourself in the mirror, but only if you say NICE things.
- When you hear some bad news, don’t get stuck in it. Instead, try to think about something good that happened recently. Force yourself. It helps a lot.
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
One of the easiest and best ways to become more mindful in this clearly overwhelming environment is to meditate, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day. This can go a LONG WAY to help you stay sane while social distancing.
By meditation, I don’t mean sitting on a mountaintop in the lotus position chanting—go for it if you want, but I can’t get my legs to move that way anymore. No, you can meditate anywhere. Just pick a quiet space, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and…
Well, there’s more to it than that, but you get the picture.
There is a LOT of information online about how to meditate. The Mayo Clinic has some great info that can help you get started. And there are a lot of apps that make meditating easy. Headspace, Calm, and 10% Happier are some of my faves.
Here are just a few of the proven benefits of meditation:
- Stress reduction
- Less anxiety
- More self-awareness
- Better sleep
- Pain relief
- Lowered blood pressure
If this all sounds too woo-woo for you, I understand. But if you’re up for it, give it a try. You might just be amazed at how much better you feel.
Stay connected through technology
Something I noticed recently is that before this pandemic, people used their devices to distance themselves (you know, not making eye contact in the coffee shop, walking into lampposts because they’re looking at their phones, that sort of thing). Now, people are using their devices to stay connected. It’s kind of beautiful in that respect.
While you’re stuck in your home, take some time to reach out to others who may be feeling the same way you are. You’re not the only one trying to stay sane! Call an elderly relative who may be all alone. FaceTime with your kids or grandkids. Have a virtual happy hour with some friends. Host a virtual Sunday dinner with members of your extended family. Attend a virtual church service. The possibilities are endless, and each one will make you feel less alone and more connected.
Connect with the people in the other room
I don’t know about you, but hanging out with my husband every single day, all day, can be exhausting. We’re both working from home, which we’re truly grateful for, but our offices are right down the hall from each other. I love him and all, but there’s no downtime! This is NOT how to stay sane while social distancing. But we’re working on it.
That being said, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a house full of kids on top of all that. If that’s your situation, I salute your bravery.
It can be tempting to all go to your separate rooms and do your own thing. In fact, it’s probably a wise choice sometimes. But not all the time.
This is a rare opportunity for families to spend precious time together. Why not come up with a few fun ideas while you’re all in one location? Pull those old board games out of the closet. (No, I don’t think you’ll resemble the family in the picture. It’s a stock photo, after all. Nobody can be expected to be THAT happy right now!)
Try an art project as a family. Do an online tutorial together—there are a lot of free ones at the moment. Maybe even have a family movie night right in your living room, popcorn and all.
Give it a try. It just might result in an unexpected consequence from this whole sequestering thing: A happier, more connected family unit. Imagine!
We hope this helps you stay sane while social distancing
Have these tips been helpful for you? If so, let me know in the comments. And share what you’re doing right now to take better care of yourself, both physically and mentally.