As we find ourselves facing a pandemic, and we are being asked to socially distance, the question remains - how do we deal with the situation without surrendering to anxiety, boredom and negativity.
“If people think massive amounts of binge-watching and social-media time will do it, they should think again,” Prof. Julie Cwikel, director of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Center of Women’s Health Studies and an expert in social epidemiology, told The Jerusalem Post. “The key to remaining in shape, physically and mentally, is to stay active and to fight the sense of isolation while avoiding spending too much time just occupied with screens.”
Here are some great ways to accomplish that:
1. Remember to take care of yourself
Do all the normal things you have done before in order to stay healthy, including getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating well.
Find a way to keep busy within your home. Many of us complain we never have time to clear out closets or get the nitty gritty cleaning done around the house. This is a great way to work off some of that physical tension. Sitting around on your couch is not.
If you live somewhere that you can go for a walk, by all means get outside, keep your distance and enjoy the fresh air. Soak up some Vitamin D from the sun. It has been shown to help promote your immune response.
2. Reach out to people in your life
You may be home with some family members, a roommate or simply alone for the time being. No matter what your situation, reach out to others. As a species, we are wired to connect. Thankfully technology gives us an abundance of ways to keep in touch with everyone in our lives.
Utilize options such as social media, email or texting. And don’t forget face-to-face interaction with FaceTime or Skype. You can even keep your book club going with an app like Zoom allowing everyone to join in, discuss your book and enjoy a glass of wine together. Use these times together to unload as well as support others – and don’t forget to laugh!
What normally helps you to relax? Crafts, watching a favorite show, reading, exercise? Whatever has worked in the past should do the trick this time too. Maybe try some new techniques as well, such as a meditation app or a yoga class on YouTube.
“It’s important that people try to do something to contrast their anxieties, to relax and stop the worrying cycle,” Cwikel said. “We know that continual worry about something without taking action increases the level of distress.”
“Moreover, people struggling with depression should keep doing what they know they are supposed to do: talking to people, taking medications, perhaps do online therapy,” she added.
4. Limit screen time
“Whether watching one movie after another or constantly checking the latest news, the temptation to spend time forced at home looking at screens is strong for everyone,” Cwikel said, “but those activities should be limited.”
While it’s tempting to keep the news on 24/7, it’s not healthy. It leaves us in a constant state of alertness and anxiety. Stay up to date on the latest news with a recap at the beginning or end of the day.
We, and our children, tend to stay tethered to our phones. “We know from research that this doesn’t help lowering their distress level.” says Cwikel. “While watching TV can be a good way to pass time, people should find the right balance between doing something that people enjoy and activities that actually benefit them.”
5. Be playful with your children
“For those who are home alone with children, it’s especially important to recognize that they pick up on our moods, so we might see more irritability and problems with sleeping or eating, also depending on the age of the child,” Cwikel said.
As they pick up on our distress, your children may become more clingy – literally and figuratively. Make sure they know they can ask you anything. Give them even more hugs and holding than usually. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and be playful with them.
Eventually, life will get back to normal. We will get out of our houses, talk to our neighbors, shake a hand and give a big hug. We’re all doing the best we can in the meantime.