How to adjust to the new reality: Social distancing in a social world

Yellow+school+bus+driving+away%2C+referencing+recent+FCPS+decision+to+shift+to+%22distance+learning%22+through+April+10.

Leana Travis

Yellow school bus driving away, referencing recent FCPS decision to shift to "distance learning" through April 10.

Leana Travis, Editor-in-Chief

Dear South Lakes Sentinel readers,

     As someone who tends to struggle with a lack of structure and long periods of isolation, I understand how a month of “social distancing” can seem overwhelming and near to impossible. For those of you who relate to that feeling or just need some tips to get through the next few weeks of suspended/online classes, here are some ideas: 

Stay Connected

Try text messaging and video chats

     Although you are advised against meeting up with large groups of people, thanks to technology we can overcome that obstacle! I know that communicating via technology is not the same as meeting in person, but I personally plan on making many group FaceTime and Skype calls over the next few weeks. Stay connected with the people who make everyday life better, and maybe connect with some new friends. We are all looking for some company to help pass the time while we’re at home. 

Don’t obsess over social media

     I know it’s tempting to latch onto the familiarity of social media as we enter this unfamiliar territory, but I have honestly found that this crisis has turned social media into a black hole of anxiety, rather than a place to turn to for comfort. As you continue to use social media, remember that now is not the time to point fingers or place blame. Instead use social media to comfort others and be there for those that are struggling. Everyone is affected by these changes in our everyday lives, so be kind to each other.

Remember your room/housemates

     Typical everyday life is filled with endless work, meetings, chores and social events, so we tend to lose touch with the people we live with, whether that be family, friends, or roommates. Take this opportunity to reconnect with those who are physically with you. Take out that old board game in the back of the closet and try it out together. Put on some music and make breakfast or dinner with your fellow homebound folks. If you live alone but have plants or pets, then remember to take care of them, too. You are not alone, even if you may feel alone. 

Engage Your Mind

Learn a thing or two

     We usually spend hours at school or work learning new skills or concepts, so now that we are no longer able to get out of the house our brains are going to get really bored really quickly. During this time off, here are some ideas to help your brain stay active: Learn some new words (in your native language or even a new one), find and try new cooking recipes, watch a cool documentary (there are many to choose from), try some word searches or crossword puzzles, break out the giant jigsaw puzzle you’ve been saving for a rainy day, or watch some classic “How To…” YouTube videos. If you have school work to catch up on or stay on top of, get it all finished so you don’t have to worry about it. There are so many things to learn even if you can’t leave the house, so don’t let your brain lose its momentum!

Get creative–literally

     Regardless of whether you think you’re “good” at the arts, letting go and finding a creative outlet can help reduce the stress and anxiety you may be feeling right now. You don’t have to perfect the skill or creative outlet you’ve chosen–just have some fun! If you’ve been waiting for the moment to learn how to play the guitar or ukulele sitting in the corner of your room, go for it. There is no better time than the present. Maybe try your hand at calligraphy, painting, or writing poetry and short stories. Try to memorize a monologue, learn a dance routine, or take artsy photos of anything and everything. The options are endless, so pick a few activities and have a good time.

Be Productive

Tackle that list of chores and “to do’s”

     During the week, things like doing laundry, cleaning your room, or organizing the hall closet tend to fall off the list of things that get done. However, now that so much time is going to be spent at home, we have the chance to focus a little more on household chores. It may not seem like the most fun way to pass the time, but you can find ways to make those chores appealing — Play some music while you fold laundry, turn on the tv while you wash dishes. When you are done, you just might feel a sense of accomplishment or pride for having been so productive.

Spend time in nature

     While you may not be able to spend time with other people, you are totally okay to take a picnic blanket to the yard and spend time outside. Get some fresh air to clear your head, and take a moment to remember that although we are going through tough times right now, the Earth still turns and the birds still sing. We are beginning the season of spring, and nature will soon be full of growth and rebirth, so take a step outside whenever you feel discouraged and notice how alive the world outside still is. 

Take care of yourself

     Staying productive doesn’t always mean staying active. Right now, many people are experiencing fear and apprehension, so it is so important to remember to check in with your own mental and physical health. If you notice that you feel tension or nervousness, maybe consider taking a hot shower or bath, listening to calming music, lighting a scented candle, or meditating. If you find that your thoughts are racing, try to sit down and journal to identify and express how you feel. It is completely understandable to be worried right now, so be kind to yourself and remember to breathe. 

Remember the Big Picture

In the face of uncertainty, look to one another

     This shift from a world of social interaction and working together, to a time of distancing and isolation can be overwhelming and confusing, but we are all living on the same Earth and we must look out for each other. The disappointments we have all had to face over the past few days are undeniably frustrating to accept, but we must remember that all the changes are being made in order to save as many lives as we can. While most of us are not so likely to experience life-threatening symptoms as a result of the virus, we are all taking measures to keep each other safe, especially those who are at a higher risk. The government is taking actions to keep us healthy, but we must also, as individuals, do our part to get through this global pandemic. Take deep breaths, wash your hands, minimize social interaction and be kind as we all face this new reality. 

     Keep checking in with us at The South Lakes Sentinel as we navigate this ever-changing narrative alongside you all, our readers. We hope to keep you informed, entertained, and optimistic throughout the following weeks spent away from school.