10 Tips for Coping While You Practice Social Distancing

April 07, 2020

We are in a situation that most of us have never experienced. Amidst strict CDC recommendations to help contain the novel coronavirus COVID-19, many of us are practicing “social distancing” for the first time. Self-isolation, physical distancing, quarantine, and shelter in place actions are significantly changing the way we live our day-to-day lives.

For many of us, staying home can feel strange. For those more acclimated to staying home, this time still presents new challenges. We may be navigating changing dynamics of sharing much more time at home with children and partners. We have fewer opportunities and freedom to leave our homes. These are unusual times, and the uncertainty of our days can dredge up distress, anxiety, fear, and every emotion in between. In light of our circumstances, we want to share ten tips for managing your time, building resilience, and minimizing stress.

1. Create a routine.
Whether you’re a morning person who starts bright and early and gets right to work, or a slow starter who prefers getting stuff done in the afternoon and evening, remember that there’s no right or wrong. Instead of trying to change your natural tendencies, observe what routine suits you and stick to it. For someone working on recovery from an eating disorder, established meal times can be a helpful part of your route. For adolescents, family meals can serve as a protective factor against the development of an eating disorder.

2. Prioritize – on paper.
Crossing off items off your to-do list can be extremely satisfying. Writing things down also helps us visualize our priorities, organize our thoughts, and grounding us when we feel overwhelmed or anxious. Dig up some good pens and fresh paper and get going.

3. Commit to trying something new.
While the country is stuck at home, many online learning institutions are offering waived or reduced fees. From Ivy League college classes to YouTube tutorials, a myriad of options can help you get started with online education. Offline, now could be a great time to teach your child (or partner or sibling) to cook or bake or knit. Explore learning something new and/or teaching someone else a new skill as a way of keeping the brain firing.

4. Change out of your pajamas.
You don’t have to wear a three-piece suit to sit at your kitchen table work – yoga pants are cool! Stay comfortable, but avoid spending the day in the clothes you slept in. Choose clothes you’d feel comfortable wearing for a grocery or pharmacy trip. Don’t skip getting dressed in the morning just because your environment has changed.

5. Get outside.
Fresh air, sunshine and light exercise can boost your mood, and we know vitamin D supports the immune system. As you get outdoors, continue to follow imperative CDC social distancing guidelines by avoiding populated areas and washing your hands after contact with anything outside of your house. Even with some distance between you and others, the change of scenery will do you good. Even if you’re sitting in your yard or walking your dog, get some (solo) outdoors time.

6. Relax your rules.
Many folks worry that they’re watching too much Netflix or letting their kids have too much screen time right now. Flip the script.  Take a moment to appreciate access to entertainment, new communication methods, and virtual learning opportunities. Structure can be helpful; rigidity rarely is. These are uncharted waters for most of us and new rules may be warranted. Give yourself some grace.

7. Socialize – virtually.
Speaking of virtual connections, set up playdates via Facetime, make plans to share morning coffee with friends over Zoom, or find a DJ dance party live on Instagram. You’ll immediately feel more connected – to your loved ones, your friends, or to thousands of others across the country. Who knows, maybe talking on the phone will come back into fashion!

8. Cope with anxiety.
Watching the news 24/7 can be stressful. While it’s important to stay informed, consider scheduling times to check in for updates and then leave the news cycle be. You can also identify coping strategies in advance by creating a list of anxiety relievers and mood boosters to have handy.

9. Manage expectations.
We are all doing our best. In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz reminds us that our best “is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.” Reflect on this the same way you reflect on rules, and adapt expectations to suit the moment.

10. Slow down.
Be grateful for the extra time where you can. Practicing gratitude for this time can be challenging, especially if our circumstances have changed dramatically due to a loss of a job or cancellation of a semester at school. At the very least, allow your body to rest and slow the pace of your day a bit to help calm the nervous system.

There are countless ways we can help or hinder our ability to cope in these uncertain times. Share your tips with others, as we have with you. With the right mix of consistency, creativity, communication, and compassion, we can and will develop a new rhythm to match the need of the days ahead.

Stay safe and be well.


Fiona LaRosa-Waters, BS is the Director of Business Development at Reasons Eating Disorder Center. Reasons offers a full continuum of care with dedicated Inpatient Adult beds, Inpatient Adolescent beds, Adult Residential beds, and an Adult Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Program that includes an Independent Living component and an Adolescent Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Program. We offer gender inclusive services for patients 12 years and older. CLICK HERE for more information.