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Stay home, stay healthy, stay connected: What you need to know about social distancing
Communities across the U.S. are shutting down in hopes of
slowing the spread of COVID-19. Schools are closing, along with
non-essential businesses; movie theaters, bars and gyms are being
shuttered, while restaurants are restricted to takeout and pickup orders
only. Daily life has turned upside down.
As the outbreak continues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending people practice social distancing, a public health measure that could save many lives in the days ahead.
What is Social Distancing?
The goal is to limit your interactions, not only by staying six feet away from others while out in public, but also by simply staying home as much as possible. Less contact helps protect individuals against infection, but also supports the entire community: Even slightly slowing down the pace of the outbreak will help ensure that hospitals and healthcare workers are not overwhelmed by a surge of patients.
Staying Home, Staying Sane: Managing a Limited Social Life
Pressing pause on face-to-face interactions and restricting our movements won’t be easy. The connections we create, whether with family and friends or within work or worship communities, often define our lives. In the days and weeks to come, creating strategies to deal with the realities of social distancing – saying temporary goodbyes to visits from children, grandchildren and close friends – will be crucial for everyone’s mental health. To fight feelings of loneliness, here are a few suggestions:
- Embrace technology! Set up regular group texts or video chats with family members and friends. Consider making formerly face-to-face activities, like book clubs or weekly coffee dates, digital: create Facebook groups or download group friendly platforms like Slack or Discord to keep connected.
- Get in touch with neighbors. Even if you can’t see one another, it’s a comfort to know they’re around. Organize a neighborhood text or phone tree to stay connected, share local information or even just a joke or two.
- Take a cue from plugged in teenagers – host remote movie nights and marathon binge watching sessions. Start the flicks and shows at the same time and chat by phone or text as you watch together.
- Don’t forget fresh air. Spend time outside, whether it be sitting on a driveway or porch during the day or watching the moon rise in the evening. If you live in an apartment, or can’t easily access a remote enough space, open a window: listen to the rain or to the birds returning from a winter away.
- Read! Plunging into an imagined world can help ease the worries of our own. Though many libraries are closed to visitors, online books and audiobooks remain available for checkout. Choose a book to read aloud as a family or read to grandkids via Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, FaceTime or Skype.
- Think big. Sometimes the best help we can give ourselves is to help others. Purchase a gift card from a favorite restaurant or coffee shop that had to temporarily close, or a subscription to your local newspaper whose reporters are working to keep you up to date about COVID-19. Donate to a local food pantry to support children who’ve lost access to meals due to school closings and the many food insecure families now at heightened risk because of the sudden loss of income from mandated business shutdowns.
Get creative, but above all, stay connected in as many ways as you can. And, as we navigate the uncertain days ahead, remember that despite the social distancing that must physically separate us, we’re all in this together.