Wellness & self-care while social distancing

Vital dos & don’ts

Written by Jennifer Hanson

It really seemed impossible months ago, but here we are. All of us, stranded in the midst of a pandemic that has forced everyone who does not perform an essential service inside and resigned to either unemployment or the monotony of working from home. This would be enough to drive anyone bonkers, but add in the uncertainty of timelines and reliable information and it’s enough to elicit a nervous breakdown. When everything seems helpless, however, it’s important to remember that this is something we’re all going through together. Luckily, there are some informative tips ahead that will hopefully help you not lose your mind.

Try. Not. To. Panic.

Constant news updates make it easy to feel like you’re drowning in information. It’s easy to get stuck in constant refresh mode and let it drain the life force out of you. Avoid this trap by figuring out what your needs are right off the bat. Try to stay away from your phone or tablet as much as possible if checking news is stressing you out. Limit your exposure even if reading the news offers you some solace or understanding. Check your regular sources a couple of times a day, but know when to put down your phone. Set screen limits or an alarm if this is difficult at first. Turn off notifications for news or other avenues of potential stress. You’ll waste days of your life on worrying if you don’t, and everyone deserves a break no matter how well-informed they want to be.

Similarly, try to stay calm if you happen to be having symptoms that align with COVID-19. It is important to be aware of your symptoms, but it’s equally as important to keep a level head about things. While the COVID-19 mortality rate is higher than the flu, severe cases only occur in 15-20% of cases.1 That’s still an 80-85% chance you’ll have mild symptoms that don’t require medical attention. Quarantining yourself is the best thing you can do until you can figure out how your body will react to whatever you’re experiencing.

Keep a routine

Just because you can’t go to the office right now for everyone’s safety does not mean you should abandon all hope of being productive! It’s well-known that there is power in having stability & routine,2 and quarantine doesn’t have to negate that. First, ask yourself what you used before now to keep you balanced and productive. Maybe you used a calendar app, or a physical calendar or to-do list. This is the perfect time to pay attention to those methods!

Write down your goals and things you need to get done, even if there’s no one keeping you accountable. This may not come smoothly at first, so try to go easy on yourself and do what you can. The fact that you can recognize this and put effort into something is what matters. This goes for families too; there is research that shows families that are more flexible to schedule shifts are less stressed,3 and that’s something everyone can use right now.

Confidence is another aspect of routine that is just as important. It’s well-known that people who work from home are more focused when they take the time to get ready in the morning as if they’re going to the office. The effort of taking changing your clothes or doing your makeup can make all the difference. Also, studies have shown women’s sexual satisfaction is linked with high body esteem,4 so this attempt can benefit more than just your work life. You may feel silly putting on a dress shirt and undies, but what matters is that you’re a little more focused and together.

Reflect & dream

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life as we know it with social plans being rearranged at every turn. It is easy to feel defeated and it’s important that we grieve the loss of so much not happening all at once. However, we are going to get through this, and looking ahead with some optimism can be helpful.

If you’re devastated about plans that got cancelled, start a list. Include all of the places you had planned to visit, as well as places you want to visit at some point in your life. The world is sorely lacking in positivity at the moment and setting goals is a good start to remedying that. The option to travel will come again one day soon, and then all that will be left is to choose a time and place from your list!

Pursue a hobby

If you had at least one hobby before this time of crisis, congratulations! You’ve probably already begun to immerse yourself in something. For all non-hobby people, this is the perfect time to start, especially since there’s evidence to show leisure activities are associated with better health and well-being.5 Ask yourself if there is anything new you want to learn or something you’ve been curious about. Plenty of delivery options are still available to bring you the supplies you need.

Having a hobby is especially important if you’re prone to panicking. Try to get into the habit of picking up your hobby whenever you feel yourself stressing. It’s critical to get yourself out of that headspace and finding something useful to distract yourself with is the first step. There are a massive number of creative apps and education options that are free right now for this very reason, so jump into one that sounds fun!

Take care

Self-care is one of the best things you can do for yourself right now. Studies have shown that students who engage in self-care report less overall stress.6 But while first thing that comes to mind when you think of self-care might be a pedicure or a relaxing bath, anything that helps you feel relaxed and balanced can be categorized as self-care and it does not need to look the same for everyone. Try immersing yourself in creating art or get your thoughts in order by meditating for a given length of time. If you are having a hard time getting motivated to start your workday, try giving yourself a fun task to do first thing to get yourself out of bed earlier.

Similarly, now is the best time to make sure you are taking care of your health. Keep up with your supplements, vitamins and medications if you take any. Eat nutritious meals that give you energy. Try to stay active, even if it’s not quite as much as before quarantine. Your immunity is going to protect you from getting sick, so taking care of your health should be a top priority during this time.

Stay connected

It’s easy during this time to feel alone. Now might be a good time to invest in your relationship if you live with a partner or children. Figure out how you communicate best. Don’t be shy about telling them how much they mean to you. Couples especially can use this time for strengthening their sexual bond and intimacy. Sex helps your relationship in multiple ways; studies have shown that intimacy is the groundwork for love as well as honesty,7 and couples who effectively communicate are more sexually satisfied regardless of gender.8 Sex can also be a workout or a stress reliever depending on your mood!

Being separated from your friends during this vulnerable time is a common struggle whether or not you live with others. Social media and technology provide the social connection that is so critical to well-being now,3 and it’s important that you take advantage of it. Sometimes touching base with a familiar face will do wonders to maintain some sense of normalcy. Maybe it’s a FaceTime date or phone call for now, but it’s all about reaching out. Your friend will probably thank you and you’ll get to bond over all the weird habits you’ve formed during quarantine.

This advice goes for family as well. This time can be particularly difficult, especially if you were accustomed to seeing your parents or siblings often. Stay in contact with them and keep up on their well-being. Make sure they are staying safe and getting what they need throughout this time, assuming you are able-bodied and not in a high-risk group.

This time is going to be one we won’t soon forget, but it’s important to remember it’s not forever. A combined approach of steady routine, staying sane, self-care and leaning on people from afar is going to be what gets us through it. In a time when isolation is necessary, it’s more important than ever to reach out.

  1. Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – United States, February 12-March 16, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:343-346. DOI:
  2. Duhigg, Charles. (2012) The power of habit :why we do what we do in life and business New York : Random House,
  3. MacPhee, D., Lunkenheimer, E., & Riggs, N. (2015). Resilience as Regulation of Developmental and Family Processes. Family relations, 64(1), 153–175.
  4. Pujols Y, Seal BN, Meston CM. The association between sexual satisfaction and body image in women [published correction appears in J Sex Med. 2010 Jun;7(6):2295]. J Sex Med. 2010;7(2 Pt 2):905–916. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01604.x
  5. Pressman, S. D., Matthews, K. A., Cohen, S., Martire, L. M., Scheier, M., Baum, A., & Schulz, R. (2009). Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-being. Psychosomatic medicine, 71(7), 725–732.
  6. Ayala, E. E., Winseman, J. S., Johnsen, R. D., & Mason, H. (2018). U.S. medical students who engage in self-care report less stress and higher quality of life. BMC medical education, 18(1), 189.
  7. Prager & Roberts (2004). Deep intimate connection: Self and intimacy in couple relationships. Handbook of closeness and intimacy.
  8. Kristen P. Mark & Kristen N. Jozkowski (2012): The Mediating Role of Sexual and Nonsexual Communication Between Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction in a Sample of College-Age Heterosexual Couples, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, DOI:10.1080/0092623X.2011.644652

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