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How to Survive Social Distancing and Self-Isolation

Read on for seven ways to get through this difficult time.

Buckle up, we’re in for a challenging road ahead. With cities and entire countries going into lockdown around the world in an effort to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus, people are retreating into their homes for self-isolation. Thus far, it seems to be the best measure to control the pandemic. But while we’re all doing our part by social distancing and remaining home-bound, let’s face the facts: it’s not easy. We are social beings by nature and self-imposed isolation will be difficult to get used to.

“We know that loneliness is detrimental to emotional and physical well being. There’s a lot of evidence about that,” Dr Joanne Wood, a professor of psychology at University of Waterloo whose work focuses on interpersonal interactions and close relationships, says over the phone. In our current situation though, she says “there’s a sense that we’re all in this together and that can make people feel connected even if they’re staying home alone.”

Read on for tips on how to survive the next few weeks.

Hang out—virtually!—with friends

Schedule FaceTime, Skype or Zoom sessions with friends and family, either one-on-one or in groups. It’s the best way to maintain regular social contact without stepping outside. “There are statistics [that] say loneliness can be even worse than smoking for physical health,” says Dr Wood. “So we know social connection is vital to staying well. People’s immune responses are better if they’re socially connected. There’s evidence of that as well.”

Aside from catch-up sessions with friends via a myriad of apps and services, Dr Wood also suggests using technology to cook, watch movies or engage in other activities in conjunction with a friend. “Last night I watched a movie with a friend – we were in different places, but we had our phones on and we were watching the same movie at the same time. So there are ways that people can stay connected thanks to today’s technology.”

Try out new recipes

Head over to Food52, Bon Appetit or any of your frequently bookmarked food sites for recipes involving beans, legumes and other pantry items. Stock up on items with a long shelf life and experiment with recipes that use those ingredients. Baking also requires mostly pantry items, aside from fresh eggs and dairy, so now’s the time to try your hand at whipping up some comfort foods like cookies, cakes and banana bread. And when it comes to produce, Goop recently posted a handy cheat sheet with tips on how to stretch the shelf life of fresh ingredients as well.

Catch up on books, TV and movies

With all this free time on our hands, it’s the perfect time to dive into a book or TV show that requires a solid time commitment. We rounded up 10 such pop culture items, like the Harry Potter books, the seven-season run of Veep, and the three-hour long Irishman for you to sink your teeth into. When else will you have a solid stretch of interrupted hours to get through these guilt-free? If you’re on the lookout for something screen-free to do, check out this roundup, which includes activities like crafts, puzzles, home organization projects and more.

Meditate daily

Self-isolation compounded with anxiety about the growing health crisis are not a great combination. Set aside a chunk of time—anything from a few minutes up to 30—each morning to meditate either on your own (if you’re not a beginner), or with the help of an app like Calm or Headspace. The New York Times also has a helpful guide on how to get you started. According to the Times, meditation is known to “reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity and promote happiness.” All of which is needed now more than ever.

Engage in regular exercise

Exercise has been proven to alleviate stress and strengthen immunity, so even with gyms and workout studios shutting down, it’s important to keep moving. Try to step out for a short walk each day to get some fresh air, but be sure to avoid crowded areas. For workouts at home, there are plenty of options from apps to live-streamed workouts. Check out our roundup of at-home workout options here.

Donate to local businesses

It’s easy to feel panicked about the future of our community, city and country as a result of this pandemic. But even from the confines of your home, there are ways in which you can help. Support local businesses, which will be the hardest hit during this period. Buy a gift card to your favourite neighbourhood cafe, spa, fashion boutique or bookstore which means they get an influx of money now, even though you’ll only redeem it later. And for those fortunate enough to have the means to stock their kitchens and keep themselves safe and entertained through this crisis, it’s a civic responsibility to help out those less fortunate. Take a leaf from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ book and donate to Food Banks Canada to help get low-income families through this difficult time.

Take care of your mental health

Reach out for counselling or therapy if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the news or by the loneliness of self-isolation. There are affordable services and helplines across Canada that offer support via text, phone or video. Head over to our roundup of resources here, and make sure to reach out if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed with the current state of events.