Quarantine is not a word we like to hear, say or even think. Yet it is happening in big cities and small towns all around the world right at this very moment.
Some news sources are calling this quarantine a great big social experiment in remote workforce mobilization. The rest of the media is busy generating reams of content on something called “social distancing” that sounds both vague and scary.
Even if you are someone who typically stays home a lot, whether for work or family or other personal reasons, it feels a lot different when you are choosing to do this versus being told you have to do this.
Social isolation is the flip side of social distancing. It’s not the pretty side, either. Homo sapiens is now and has always been a social species. We need each other whether we are allowed to congregate and connect or not.
So how can you keep required (or optional but strongly recommended) social distancing from becoming social isolation? Are there ways you can keep in contact with loved ones while quarantined? Fortunately, the answer is yes!
What Is “Social Distancing?”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued an official communication regarding stages of social distancing. As you might expect, this document makes for a rather dry read. It is not that easy to understand. And it is very long.
The good news here is, if you find the CDC’s guidelines confusing, you are definitely not alone. Even other health officials have expressed public confusion about what social distancing really entails.
Is there a bullet points version you can follow to make sure you are maintaining proper social distancing without becoming socially isolated? There is now.
Here are some general tips from experts to help explain what social distancing means and looks like:
- Avoid gathering in public places.
- Limit in-home gatherings.
- Cancel non-essential appointments.
- Work from home if at all possible.
- Visit communal spaces (such as shared laundry facilities) during “off” hours.
- Go grocery shopping or to the gym during non-peak hours.
- Minimize exposure to hospitals, clinics and assisted living facilities.
- Delay big planned social gatherings (birthdays, weddings, et al).
- Use ride-sharing as an alternative to public transportation.
- Practice excellent hygiene and personal space when out and about.
The CDC’s outline includes guidance for different types of public spaces and also different levels of risk. Anyone with any symptoms should always self-quarantine at home and limit contact with other family members until 14 days have passed.
Now that you understand what social distancing does look like, let’s talk about how you can make sure it does not turn into social isolation! Read on for some ways to keep in contact with loved ones during a self-imposed or required quarantine period.
Stay Connected During Quarantine
As we mentioned in the introduction here, researchers have confirmed that our species, Homo sapiens, has evolved to be intensely social.
Even if you are an introvert by nature, it is important to understand that underneath your personality type your species type is still wired to seek out social connection.
Yet here comes a virus and all of a sudden we are being told to distance ourselves from others so we can survive.
The operative word here is, of course, “survive.”
Social distancing is an empirically proven strategy to limit the spread of any new epidemic disease.
But on the other hand, social distancing is not going to help us thrive and can definitely be damaging, with research-backed symptoms of its own that include depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
These alternate ways to stay in touch won’t fully bridge this temporary distance between us, but they sure will help us feel not so alone until it is over.
1. Turn to social media
Social media – can’t live with it, can’t seem to avoid it. Some people do and that works for them. Others get addicted to it and, well, we aren’t advocating that.
But in a pinch, social media can be a reliable avenue for staying in touch with whatever (and whomever) floats your boat, be it other fans of your favorite Netflix binge-worthy series or your cousin who lives half a planet away.
Just try to limit your use of social media for consumption of gloom-and-doom news – the only thing that is likely to connect you to is more panic!
2. Connect via Facetime or video
FaceTime isn’t a new invention, but it may be one that is ahead of its time.
After all, very little in life can substitute for being face to face – or even in the same space – with loved ones.
But FaceTime comes close in some ways. You can see your loved ones. You can hear them in every way – verbal and non-verbal communication. You can laugh together in real time and share news.
For group gatherings, video chat and webinar services can help you create a virtual gathering with at least the sensation of in-person interaction.
3. Use online free scrapbooking tools to trade phonebooks
Online free scrapbooking tools make it easy to share photos and videos of your favorite memories with others.
If you have to stay at home anyway, perhaps this is the perfect time to compile and organize those great pictures you took from last year’s epic trip. In the process, you can learn a new skill by working with a simple online scrapbooking platform or app.
Looking at your pictures is guaranteed to make you smile and evoke memories of special times when you were loving life and good company. Sharing them makes those memories feel even more alive.
4. Send email “letters”
In the days before text and social media, we sent each other emails. Of course, we still do this – hundreds and thousands of times every single day.
But when was the last time you used email to actually connect in ways that venture beneath the surface?
One fun idea is to pick one person – perhaps your bestie or your young niece or nephew who is stuck at home as well – as your email “penpal.” Commit to writing to each other once a day and sharing something good that happened that day.
5. Make remote movie dates
Missing your Tuesday night watch group or your monthly movie club? You can still gather remotely!
You can even use FaceTime or webinar services to watch the movie together, if you like. Or after you have all viewed the film, facilitate the discussion on a Facebook group, WhatsApp, Messenger or another portal.
6. Start an online book group
A quarantine can turn nearly anyone into a bookworm, but you don’t have to do all that reading by yourself.
An online or virtual book group is another creative method for discussing the read of the week, or month, or year.
Here are some awesome free book club apps you can browse through to find the one that will work best for your needs.
7. Create a positive vibes circle
One great way to stay positive and connected is to agree to “meet” at a set time daily to send out positive vibes for the planet, health workers, patients and everyone.
Depending on your background, you may want to structure this as a prayer circle, positive intentions club, mindfulness virtual meetup or affirmations group.
No matter what structure resonates, you will likely find there is an app out there you can use to organize your group. Or just use text or FaceTime if that is simpler to send out reminders and gather.
8. Go old school and send snail mail
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that it is still safe to send and receive packages and letters, since viruses cannot survive for very long on this type of media.
While you should always research recommendations for your local area and exercise your own best judgment when it comes to exchanging items that require human contact, snail mail can represent another way to stay connected that is deeply meaningful and personal.
9. Walk outside and smile and wave to people
Right now, social distancing does not rule out simply going outside your house or even taking a nice walk in pleasant weather.
You can still maintain a safe distance from others while still getting out to enjoy the sun, soak up some vitamin D (great for fighting depression) and seeing others.
By simply offering a smile and a friendly wave when you see other people, you can send your mind the message that you are not alone and you are strong enough to get through this quarantine period successfully.
10. Use apps to dial down the stress of quarantine worry
If ever there was a time to forget all about some of the negative aspects of the internet, apps and online technology, it would be now.
Apps in particular are great aids during a quarantine. One science-backed app called Headspace offers a free 10-pack of easy beginner meditations to help you incorporate mindfulness meditation into your daily life.
Taking this time to learn a valuable new skill like mindfulness meditation is something that you will benefit from for the rest of your life.
11. Work out with YouTube
Depending on the recommendations or restrictions in your local area, you may or may not feel comfortable heading to a gym to exercise and workout.
This is a great time to check out some of the amazing free content on YouTube or your favorite video platform.
You can learn to dance, do yoga or tai chi and even walk at home and find awesome workout music playlists to keep your heart rate up. And be sure to check out the kids workouts to keep bored kids busy while you are all at home together.
12. Listen to podcasts
Podcasts offer a great way to soak in positive wisdom and feel a part of something bigger than just a virus outbreak or temporary quarantine. Many such programs, podcasts and courses also include a group component where you can interact with other students, teachers and learners.
Platforms like Udemy offer a wealth of low-cost online learning courses and podcasts.
For totally free learning, check out University of the People for accredited courses offered for no fees.
Many traditional colleges and universities (Harvard is one example) also offer free online courses you can access anytime.
13. Start a blog (or work on the one you have)
Been itching to take up blogging? A quarantine time is a great time to put your inner procrastinator to work.
Blogging is also a fantastic way to start journaling in a way that can be supportive to you and to others who read your content.
By sharing your posts with friends and family locally and long distance, you can begin to build your network and initiate conversations that benefit everyone.
14. Pick up the phone
Does it ever feel like the only time you ever pick up the phone these days is to add yet another spam caller to your block list?
If there is one thing that quarantine can accomplish, it is to free up people’s schedules to make more time to talk on the phone.
Don’t be surprised if everyone you call picks up right away and is eager for a warm and lively conversation!
15. Be very, very kind to yourself
Finally, there is nothing easy about being quarantined or practicing social distancing. During times like these, your own friendship to yourself matters most of all.
The more you can befriend yourself, the more positive, loving energy you will have to stay connected to others in creative ways as well.