Recently, our team was reminded that we can make a difference in the words we use. That the call for safe social practices is not about social isolation. It’s actually about “physical distancing AND social involvement” as so eloquently stated from our friend, colleague and behavioral health provider, Greg Kleiner, Director of Compliance and Operations at Consejo Counseling, as he works with us seeking solutions to the COVID-19 crisis here in Washington.
Greg’s words reminded us that we need to be careful about using words like “social isolation” or I’m “quarantining myself” as these words could lead to increased feelings of detachment, depression, extreme despair, anxiety, withdrawal and potentially social discontent and discord. These feelings could cause negative long-term behavioral and physical health implications that decrease community health and economic outcomes.
In this spirit, we’re reframing how we speak about safe social practices because humans are not meant to be alone. In its place we would prefer to think of our new normal as Physical Distance, Social Involvement, per Greg’s insight. There are plenty of stories on how to keep yourself from going stir-crazy in the coming weeks, but we wanted to share a few ways you can stay connected, engaged and help support the community we share. Below is a diagram to help illustrate this shift in thinking.
Humans are wired to act like everything is ok, even when it may not be. The culture of “How are you? I’m good!” means we rarely share or get a glimpse of the anxiety, insecurities or battles going on within. With less physical interaction, it’s important we connect and support one another now more than ever. By performing an act of kindness you can help shift someone’s entire day. For instance, you likely have neighbors who are elderly or living with chronic conditions who can’t accomplish as much as they’d like during this time. We recommend using this postcard to help safely engage with the people in your community so they receive the support they need.
This is the best time to write an actual letter, send an email, set up a video call, or rekindle a group text. Technology allows us every imaginable method to check-in with the people in our lives while staying physically safe. Many have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to check-in. The App Store and Google Play have collections of applications to help you stay in touch.
“My nephew and I had a face time date. We made up a silly song that involved counting cars. Even though we were not in the same room, the connection and feeling of closeness was there,” shares Sarah Stacy, Clinical Director at Elevate Health. “It was equally as hard to hang up the phone as it is to say goodbye in person. It’s so important to find ways to connect, it is in our being to be close to one another.”
“I have been working with my daughter on this same thing and [her friends] have group “google duo” sessions to work thru homework together. This way they are working together, having some laughs and just being silly kids even if it’s for 30 minutes a day,” said Angie Treptow, Care Continuum Network Operations Manager at Elevate Health.
Practicing gratitude is a wonderful way to start and end your day. Write down three things you’re grateful for as a reminder of the positive pieces of your life. It can be as simple as “I’m grateful for the sun on my face while I drink this cup of coffee.” Another great way to be present is to laugh. Laughter soothes anxiety and helps keep down our stress levels. Pay attention to what makes you laugh or smile and cultivate a practice to engage with that feeling regularly.
Physical distancing is act of service to others. We’ve shared how you can help support your neighbors and community members who may be at risk. You can also thank the people who aren’t able to physically distance themselves, such as healthcare workers, grocers, social workers, and city officials.
Get Fresh Air
Now more than ever — as we weather the challenges of the coronavirus — we could use a walk outdoors. Fresh air is an excellent way to keep our bodies strong and resilient to infection. March 19th was the first day of spring, and many of us in the Northwest already have spring fever. You can stay safe and get outside if you do it in a conservative fashion.
“The last thing [my 15 year-old daughter] needs is to be socially distant,” shares Greg Kleiner. “She misses school because she misses her friends – so we’re working on a variety of ways to be socially involved and safely distant and outside like throwing Frisbee, taking walks, and going on photography outings.”
“I have my daughter and her group of friends do a physical activity together though they are apart. Yesterday, they went on a face time walk, so they all walked their own neighborhoods but together,” shares Angie.
When your mind races and your body starts to tense up, that’s the time to take a moment and breathe. By closing your eyes, breathing in slowly and counting to three, you can help calm yourself. Good news! Headspace, the mindfulness and guided meditation app, is now free for any health care provider who works in public health in the U.S. through the end of the year. Health care professionals are able to access a full library of guided mediations (with a new one arriving each day), along with sleep sounds and bedtime exercises, all to help destress.
We know there are more ways to connect and support one another, and want to hear how you’re using Physical Distance and Social Involvement in your life. Our leadership is considering ways for us to host a campaign seeking and celebrating opportunities and bright ideas for social connection for anyone and everyone while keeping a safe physical distance. Connect with us online and we’ll share the ideas and practices that are making a difference in improving your day. We hope you continue to stay healthy – physically, emotionally, and mentally.