Silver linings: what we can learn from social distancing

By Gaby Doman

A few months (even weeks) ago, we could never have imagined the world we live in now, thanks to COVID-19. On a macro level, the changes are indescribable. On a more micro level, it means that hanging out with friends is controversial, screen time is encouraged over outdoors time, and the mundane has become scary. 

We don’t know when the world will be safe again and how it will have changed after the virus has run its course. It’s important to stay informed, but rather than get sucked into a vortex of terrifying stats, Twitter threads, and videos from the frontline; it’s sometimes better to focus on those things you can control. 

One thing I’ve heard echoed a lot lately is that in the darkest times, the most important things in your life become clear. Even if “normal life” feels a long way off, we can use this opportunity to reevaluate and adjust the ways we live and work. 

Communicate better 

I’ve been checking in with my friends and family a lot more. Partly it’s my need to connect, but I’m also more aware of those in my life who are lonely or who need a lighthearted conversation to stop them going too far down the rabbit hole. 

In our four weeks and counting of working from home, communication among my FunkyCorp colleagues has improved, too. We use every digital tool available to work as a team, even when we’re scattered across the city. One really nice touch is our group video call every morning, and one-on-one evening calls with our manager. It’s a chance to share work info, but also how we’re feeling. We’re all navigating this kind of crisis for the first time, and genuine support comes through on those calls. 

Key takeaway: Don’t assume everyone else is doing ok; reach out to those around you.

Be kind to yourself 

It’s easy to kid ourselves that this “downtime” is a chance to catch up on every project we’ve ever thought of starting. Even an at-home to-do list can get overwhelming: reading books, tidying up, learning a new language, or doing that Instagram push-up challenge you saw. Not every second of every day has to be productive. This is a tough time and probably not the best time to set intense goals. You don’t have to emerge from this as a polyglot with a six-pack. Sometimes, you need to pull on some sweatpants and watch Netflix and be kind to yourself. 

Key takeaway: Let go of unrealistic expectations; it’s ok to take the nap.

Be kind to others

It’s been touching to see people reaching out and helping those outside their social circle. Volunteering at soup kitchens, going shopping for elderly neighbors and sharing toilet paper supplies with those who can only find empty shelves. There’s a “we’re all in this together” sense of community that I hope continues (and triumphs over selfish hoarding) long after the era of coronavirus. 

Key takeaway: Look for ways to help out and connect with the wider community.

Go outside 

If you’re self-isolating or even just social distancing, you’ve probably had moments of cabin fever. I’ve been going out every lunch for a walk or light jog around my neighborhood. Maybe it’s the serotonin talking, but there is something uplifting about the freedom and putting one foot in front of the other that feels optimistic. It’s been a revelation to me just how much an hour of fresh air can boost my mood. Pre-coronavirus, the only significant time I spent outside in the daylight was on the commute to the metro. I hope I’ll never forget the power of vitamin D and fresh air as a mood booster and the power nature has to remind us that not everything is falling apart. 

Key takeaway: Try some green therapy every day; make time to get out in the fresh air.

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