#stayhomestayhopeful - 10 Tips for Coping with Social Distancing
April 01, 2020
Corey Connelly, MA, LPC, LCAS, HopeWay Primary Therapist
Right now we’re living in an unprecedented, scary, and isolating time. Even though this is very difficult, and there are a lot of things we can worry about, I think it’s vital to remember the importance of practicing self-care, routine, and connection.
Our relapse prevention curriculum at HopeWay stresses the importance of four factors when it comes to routine:
Connections with Others
These four things are possible each day, even when we’re staying at home.
My Top 10 Tips for Coping (when you’re stuck at home):
1. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule.
I know it’s tempting to stay up until the wee hours of the morning watching Netflix, especially when we do not have many obligations the next day. But sleep is SO important for supporting our mental health and stress levels, as well as our immune systems. Going to bed and waking up around the same time everyday helps set the stage for the whole day.
2. Make a schedule every day.
I, like most people, struggle with too much free, unstructured time, which makes it much easier to watch movies and TV for hours on end. While it’s important to allow time for relaxing, waking up and setting a schedule for the day (or setting one the night before) makes it much easier to hold yourself accountable for planning out your day and accomplishing the goals you’ve set.
3. Make an effort to connect socially every day.
I know that this is really hard to do right now, but you don’t have to physically be with someone to be “social”. Even just reaching out and texting a friend or family member counts as social connection. Planning a weekly Skype, Zoom or FaceTime session with friends is another way to stay connected.
4. Set a personal goal.
Now is the perfect time to finally start to plan out and work on some goals from your personal bucket list. Have you been wanting to clean out the closet or dresser? Or have you been thinking about starting to run or learn yoga? Maybe you want to work on finishing that book, or re-learn that instrument you have stashed away somewhere? Now’s the perfect time to start all of those things without leaving your home.
5. Move every day.
Again, like social connection, this one is definitely more challenging right now, and I know first-hand how difficult it can be to work out at home. However, exercise is so important for boosting endorphins (i.e. battling depression), helping with sleep, blowing off stress, and the list goes on. Even when we’re stuck “at home”, we can still walk or run outside, and there are countless places (both locally and nationally) offering free online streaming classes. You can also find plenty of free resources on YouTube or social media.
6. Plan something fun, and remember to “treat yourself”. Often.
No matter what your interests are (or your budget), plan something to look forward to. A great way to treat yourself right now, while also supporting a small business, is to get takeout or delivery from your favorite restaurant. Or if you love cooking, use the extra time to plan out some of your favorite meals or something you’ve been wanting to try but have never had the time for. Even renting a movie you’ve been wanting to see for months or finally starting that TV or podcast series could be something fun and rewarding.
7. Do things that ground you.
Try to adapt daily practices to the current reality; again, this helps us all keep a routine. Your daily practices are going to vary, but some examples include: a daily mindfulness or mediation practice, keeping a daily gratitude journal, or practicing something spiritual daily if that grounds you. Even just listening to your favorite band could be something that keeps you centered. We practice mindfulness often at HopeWay, and thankfully there are tons of apps you can download on your phone to keep that same practice going (such as Insight Timer, which is also free). Even apps you typically have to pay for, like Headspace, are offering 30-day free trials right now.
8. Therapy doesn’t have to slip right now.
While in-person therapy sessions are usually preferred, many therapists are offering remote, video sessions right now, and that works really well. (By the way, HopeWay Psychiatry & Associates is offering virtual appointments with our psychiatrists.) If you don’t have access to a camera, don’t let that deter you. Talk to your outpatient therapist about having a session over the phone. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s important, now more than ever, to take advantage of extra support. Also, if you feel so inclined, you can download or order a therapy book. Some of my typical recommendations to clients include:
- “The CBT Toolbox” by Jeff Riggenbach
- “DBT Skills Training Manual” by Marsha Linehan
- “Boundaries Workbook” by Cloud and Townsend
- “I Hate You --Don’t Leave Me” by Kreisman and Straus
- “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie
Self-help books are also a great option right now; not as therapy-focused, but still motivating and supportive such as “Carry on, Warrior” by Glennon Doyle.
9. If you’re trying to stay sober (or are involved in Al-Anon), don’t forget about the importance of support.
Please check out al-anon.org or aa.org. Boredom is a huge trigger for relapse. Please take advantage of 12-step social support options and stay connected. They can be streamed through Zoom or have conference call options.
10. Lastly, and most importantly: remember to be kind to yourself.
I know it sounds “cheesy”, but sometimes we just need this reminder. The truth is, all of these things are important to practice daily, especially right now. However, if you do sleep in later than you planned, or you watch Netflix instead of doing a yoga class, remember to practice self-compassion. Right now we’re all a little off our game, and it’s okay to have some flexibility. And remember: you’re not alone.
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