Coronavirus. COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2. 2019-nCoV. Novel coronavirus.
No matter what you call it, this disease has had a major impact on all of our lives. Every day there are new changes to how we live our lives based on the spread of COVID-19. And it will continue do so for the foreseeable future.
We have been inundated with information about how to protect ourselves against the corona virus and how to socially distance ourselves. But during these uncertain times, isolation can have a tremendous negative impact on our emotional health. Not feeling connected to others can also make you more susceptible to catching a cold, feeling depressed, and even lower your cognitive functioning. It is important to find ways to stay connected to others while still maintaining our health. The internet gives us many different ways to do this.
- Video chatting – Whether you Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, Hangout, or any other platform for video chatting, it is a great way to stay connected with others. While phone calls are also important, having the face-to-face contact with others is much more meaningful for maintaining relationships and can give a stronger sense of connection to those who are isolated.
- Emails – Send someone a message to let them know you are thinking of them. It is a quick and easy way to stay in touch, an more personal than just checking in on someone by seeing what they have posted on social media.
- Online Groups – Join a group to connect with others who have similar interests to yours. It could be knitting, woodworking, astronomy, cooking, or anything else that you can think of. Conversing with others about everyday topics no only gives you a sense of community, but also helps to give you a sense of normalcy. Or you could have a virtual happy hour with friends or colleagues.
This can be an especially difficult time for the elderly, who are at especially high risk and therefore very likely to be isolated. They may not have the understanding of technology to stay connected over the internet. But there are other ways to maintain social relationships with them. The phone can be a great way to connect while staying safe.
- Call to check in – Make it a part of your new routine to call individuals who are isolated. Let them know you are thinking about them.
- Watch a movie together – Send someone a message to let them know you are thinking of them. It is a quick and easy way to stay in touch, an more personal than just checking in on someone by seeing what they have posted on social media.
- Have the kids call – Children are great at brightening up someone’s day. Help them call friends and family who could use some cheering up. It can be as simple as calling with a joke of the day or a toddler showing off a new word. This also helps to strengthen the connection for the child.
The isolation can lead to a lack of cognitive stimulation for everyone, especially young children. Every day is an opportunity for them to learn and grow, even while stuck at home. Screen time, even if it is called educational, is not the answer for getting through this. There are obvious activities like reading to them, but children can learn so much through creative play.
- Art and Crafts – You can give them a set project to do or just put out the materials and let them decide what to make.
- Cook or bake – Even the youngest children can stir or slice up a banana.
- Play dough – is a favorite among many young children. It is great for pretend play as well as for developing fine motor skills.
- Build a fort with them. It can be the basis of so many different stories for pretend play.
- And, if at all possible to do safely with social distancing, get them outside!
While older children may be doing schoolwork from home, they can still learn while having fun during their free time. This can be an opportunity for them to be creative or try something new.
- Come up with a prizewinning idea through Invent the Summer.
- Take a virtual field trip (Adults may enjoy some of these activities, too!) These could include museums, zoos, national parks, even the Great Wall of China!
- Science experiments can be done with children of all ages. You can find many ideas for science experiments online, or let them come up with their own.
- Let them be bored! As Robert Pirsig once said, “Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity.”
Adults of all ages need to keep busy too. While many individuals are now working from home and may not have as much time, we all need to find new ways to spend our leisure time while practicing social distancing. Our brains need stimulation at all stages of life. Activities that keep your mind active can help the elderly maintain cognitive health. Even simple activities such as setting a routine and practicing mindfulness are beneficial to our mental health. Find and celebrate your silver lining in your new situation. You can use this time to enrich your mind, and not just the previously mentioned museum visits.
Staying active is still important for your physical and mental health, even if you are at home. Exercise can be done in your living room. For those who are healthy, go outside! Take your dog for a walk, let the kids run around in the yard, or start preparing your garden for the spring. Social distancing doesn’t mean that you have to stay inside, but that you should keep a physical distance between yourself and others such as avoiding crowded parks. Having a change of scenery and getting out into nature can be very beneficial. If you can’t get outside, then open a window for some fresh air.
Children may have trouble understanding what is going on. The constant flow of new information and changes can be overwhelming to adults. Children need our support to help them process everything. They may be anxious and fearful, or they may not be phased by it at all. It is important to talk to kids at their level to help them understand what is going on and to address any concerns or misconceptions that they may have. Taking simple actions like creating a new daily routine to give their day structure can bring stability back into their lives. Resources are also available for parents going through the stress of parenting during social distancing.
Concerns about the dangers of the coronavirus and the impact it is having on your life can be a major cause of anxiety. The World Health Organization warns against spending too much time following the coronavirus in the news if it causes you distress. They recommend limiting how often you access information each day, and make sure that the information that you are looking for is beneficial to you and it comes from reliable sources, such as the WHO website, the CDC, and health authorities.
Finally, try not to get caught up in all of the hype of social media. Yes, the corona virus is a major concern. However, there is much misinformation and sensationalism being circulated, and focusing on this will not help you maintain a positive outlook. Chose your sources of information carefully and properly educate yourself about how to keep you and your loved ones safe.