“Social distancing” is a strange-sounding term, isn’t it?
It isn’t one of my favorites.
This in spite of the fact that I am a card-carrying introvert who considers social avoidance one of her very best talents.
The truth is, there is a big difference between choosing to stay home and being told to stay home.
For example, the former feels like a, well, choice.
Conversely, the latter feels like a blanket betrayal of my personal freedom (not to mention an outright contraindication of my species’ well-documented biological need to stay connected).
Also, no one really seems to know what social distancing really is or how to do it. Even experts are expressing confusion over when, where, how, how far and for how long.
But there is one fact that science and the CDC can at least agree on: when it comes to limiting the spread of unwelcome visitors like virus germs, social distancing works.
No one wants coronavirus. So social distancing it is.
Can we embark on this new collective stay-safe experiment in social distancing without that extra unwanted side order of social isolation?
I think so.
So I have decided this is the right moment to share five tips gleaned from my near-decade of happily working from home – just in case you are feeling understandably shaky, scared or simply unfamiliar with having to remain at home all day, every day, until who knows when.
1. Routine really helps.
When I graduated college (oh so many moons ago) and got my first job, my new employer set me up with a remote sales territory and a home office right away.
I would program my alarm every night and get up at the same time every morning, take a shower and then actually dress up in my work clothes – complete with hose and heels. Only then would I head into my office – conveniently located right across the hall from my kitchen – to sit down at my desk and start my workday.
Me-now wouldn’t make that same choice. But me-then needed to do it that way to feel like a legitimate, bona fide, responsible, grownup paid employee while learning to work from home.
Fast forward to today and I now happily start my day with meditation, yoga and caring for my precious feathers and shells. And then I go to work in my jammies. Anyplace I fancy can be a work space – outside on the lawn, on the couch, on the floor while my tortoise naps under my knees, side by side with my writing assistant as he happily flings wicker shards from his nesting basket all over my keyboard…..we make it work and it is great.
But if you are working from home temporarily right now, you may find that keeping to your same normal workday routine – alarm clock, clothes and all – is what you need to adapt to this sudden shift.
Just find a routine that works for you and stick to it. Trust me, this can be sanity-sustaining.
2. Cozy up to your smart device.
A COVID-19 pandemic is the wrong time to rail against the addictive evils of the internet, apps or social media.
We need these tools more than ever right now!
Sure, sharing a social post on Instagram or Facebook is never going to be a substitute for a warm in-person hug.
But Twitter isn’t going to sneeze on you either.
So use the heck out of FaceTime, Facebook Groups, WhatsApp, email, texting, whatever social tools you favor to stay connected.
Aim to do this at least once or twice a day. Text your bestie to check on them. Send an email to relatives to ask how they are doing. Call your relative in the assisted care center instead of going in person to visit. Set up a time to video-chat with your work group.
Post updates to your favorite social feed often throughout your day and share content you find inspiring. Then respond to comments and enjoy the little hits of socially-connecting dopamine this provides.
3. Soak up some sun and send a wave and a smile.
Unless your local area has specifically limited your movement to your home and lawn, there is nothing to say you can’t still get out for some fresh air and take a walk around your neighborhood.
All that sun-soaked vitamin D is great for lifting depression and easing anxiety.
And while you are out there, you can send friendly waves and smiles to others as everyone still maintains their safety-prescribed social distance.
It is amazing how uplifting a simple smile and a wave can be – given and received.
4. Meetup in (virtual) person.
Every time I have to go out during rush hour traffic, I marvel yet again that anyone, anywhere, can tolerate such traffic jams without going absolute bat-sh*t crazy.
I used to be one of those regular commuter people, stuck behind the wheel of their vehicle for hours on end five days a week. Only I was usually crying behind my particular wheel because every successive red light I got stuck at meant my evening misery-drowning vodka-tonic just got moved that much farther back yet again.
Point being, without your normal commute to and from school, work, kids’ activities, whatever used to be a regular part of your day that is temporarily not, you now have extra free time.
Which means you can use it to do fun virtual in-person things like starting a book club, movie group, prayer (or positive vibes or gratitude) circle, game night, beer tasting, yoga meetup or whatever sounds like fun.
There are so many apps and platforms and tools and courses that are totally free and easy to use.
Maybe you aren’t the “organizer type” (I sure am not) but if you notice yourself starting to feel socially isolated, why not give it a whirl and add a little something extra to your day that everyone can look forward to?
5. Be extra-special kind to yourself.
Even though today I think working from home while also living at home, which basically means being at home nearly 24/7, is the most wonderful thing ever, I didn’t always.
It isn’t for everyone. If this means you, don’t expect yourself to just magically adapt. And whatever you do, don’t walk around behind yourself all day long mentally criticizing how well (or not) you are doing it.
What I mean is, pandemics are a great time to remember life is short and we don’t know in advance how much of it we are going to get.
We really don’t know. So in the life you have now, decide – would you like it to taste bitter or sweet?
Try each and see. Notice your preference. Do the one you prefer again. Then again. Set your new preferred pattern in motion with one small self-kindness and then another and then another.
I like what the Dalai Lama says:
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
With great respect and love,
p.s. Do you have favorite tips to stay connected during social distancing? I would love to hear them! 🙂