Getting Along in a Time of Social Distancing

There is a difference between solitude and isolation. One is connected and one isn’t. Solitude replenishes, isolation diminishes.  – Henry Cloud

I think, if you have enough inner resources, then you can live in isolation for long periods of time and not feel diminished by it. – Aung San Suu Kyi

When you’re obligated to “social distance” to protect yourself and others, how do you pass the days? In these unsettling times, that is not an idle question.

As my little corner of the world shuts down in the face of the coronavirus, I have a lot of time of my hands. I consider myself lucky. My children are grown, I live in a close-knit neighborhood, and I have no worry of losing my job if I don’t show up to work. I check on friends who are also social distancing and work to keep the boredom at bay. I know I will ride this out much easier than others in more tenuous positions.

So, for me, the challenge is overcoming isolation fatigue. I have a stack of books to read and boxes of puzzles to put together. I have internet and screen time available at a single click. The weather is gorgeous, and I can walk almost anywhere without breaking that six-foot perimeter between people.

The quotes at the start of this post reflect the attitude I’ve decided to adopt during this crisis. I’m not looking upon my circumstances as a punishment, but as an opportunity. My attitude may change if I start showing coronavirus symptoms, but for now I’m taking steps to use my involuntary downtime in a positive way.

Here’s my plan:

First, go on a news diet. No, I’m not ignoring the news. I need information to live my life in a world of coronavirus, but I am trying to not have the news playing on a loop in the background. I check in with the latest updates in the morning and then in the evening, but beyond that, the news is off. If I keep my ear tuned in all day long, I fall into a deep, dark rabbit hole of despair. I can’t see the good that is still out there if I fill my world with nothing but bad news.

Get some exercise. I am by no means a gym rat. Never was. But being sedentary in front of my computer isn’t helping my mind or my body. While the weather is good, I’ll keep taking walks, either alone or with my husband. Hubby is also awesome for encouraging me to practice yoga every day with videos he finds on Amazon. I may come to the mat reluctantly, but I expect that, too, will change.

Make time to read. For a self-proclaimed bookworm, this seems like a no brainer. Strangely, though, I have had a hard time lately coming to my books unless I make a concerted effort. Blocking out a steady stream of coronavirus news has helped, as has taking a break from the addictive games waiting for me on my tablet. As the days go on, I learn that there is a time for everything and I’m only going to find that time if I make it happen.

Meditate. This is all part of what Aung San Suu Kyi calls “inner resources”. It is all too easy to get lost in forests of anxiety and despair. Meditation clears the clutter, leaving behind an inner peace that becomes more pronounced with daily practice. My go-to meditation app? Headspace.

And, finally, write. I find that writing a few pages in a journal every morning helps clear the anxiety from my mind. I begin with no agenda and write whatever pops into my brain, even if it is “I don’t know what to write.” Freewriting lets me whine in a safe space, work out problems, and start the day with a positive attitude

Everyone’s journey through this global pandemic is personal and what I write here may not strike a chord with everyone. I write this in the hopes that it will help someone somewhere cope with the strange new world of social distancing.

Or, in the words of that immortal sausage king Jimmy Dean:

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

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