Six healthy things you can do to take the edge off social distancing

As we deal with the hands coronavirus has dealt, attitude is everything.
March 17, 2020

Social distancing is, for now, the best tool we as a civilization have to prevent the spread of coronavirus and “flatten the curve” to keep the numbers of severe cases down.

couple riding bike as getting exercise and being outdoors is on the list of ideas for social distancing.
Need great ideas for social distancing? Exercising and getting outdoors are both great options. Source: iStock.

For most of us, “social distancing” means being largely stuck in the house or apartment. Even those who can work from home will inevitably have more time on their hands. Remember that time is, as Ben Franklin so aptly put it, “the stuff of life,” and we can use it wisely or otherwise. While binge-watching old episodes of “Friends” will burn away hours, doing so in excess will leave you hollow. Here are a few healthy ideas for social distancing that are a productive use of your days and evenings.

Create a new routine

woman drinking coffee at her laptop in the morning, which is a great time to thing of ideas for social distancing for that day.
Take time during your morning coffee to plan your day and decide what new ideas for social distancing you want to try. Photo: Getty Images.

This is important for us adults as well as for kids whose school and after-school-activity routines are, for now, out the window. Maybe get up a bit later, but set a time to be moving and functional. Shower. Dress as you would (no need to put on the suit, but shoot for presentable). Eat a proper breakfast (or, if you don’t eat breakfast, have that cup of tea or coffee). As you sip, make a list of what you’re going to do today. If you have no pressing deadlines, think about the little things you’ve been putting off for a pandemic. That could be going through your closet and weeding out dusty shoes and clothes someone else might better use. It could be getting going on your taxes. It could be clearing your phone and organizing and backing up your digital photos. It could be writing a long email to an old friend. Don’t let yourself slip into “I’m boooored….” We adults are almost always behind. Catch up, then check things off as you accomplish them.

Give ‘em a (video) call

Social distancing runs contrary to the deep human desire to be among others of our species. Fortunately, this pandemic came after the dial-up Internet era. If you have an Apple device, FaceTime a friend or loved one; if there’s an Apple-Android schism, Skype does video calling. WhatsApp is platform-agnostic and lets you and your crew exchange group messages, videos, audio and more (there’s no video-calling, but there is audio calling, too). Make a point of staying in touch and seeing how those you care about are doing.

Let the music play

woman sits on couch with headphone. Listening to music is one of the ideas for social distancing.
Source: Getty Images.

Whether through headphones or an Alexa cylinder, music has psychological benefits and can be enjoyed while focusing on a productive task. Welcome those benefits.

If you have a garden, prep it

For those with yards, it’s a great time to wield the shears. Deciduous trees and vines have yet to leaf out here, making it the perfect time to prune or tame vines that seem to think they’re Everglades anacondas. If you cultivate annual vegetables or flowers in raised beds or otherwise, turn the soil and fortify with compost, which will then have weeks to settle in prior to planting.

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Get outside

Coronavirus may be able to upend routines, but it can’t stop us from enjoying the sunshine. This is a beautiful time of year, and we’re fortunate to live in one of the sunniest places in the country. Get outside and enjoy it. The sun’s rays not only coax your skin to produce vitamin D – which, among other benefits, helps the lungs ward off infection, no triviality in these times. Also, the sunlight against our eyeballs is good for our moods (artificial multispectral light is a proven treatment for seasonal affective disorder, remember). Perhaps as importantly, getting outside puts things in perspective. The sky is still blue; mountains still poke above the foothills to the west. The flora and fauna pay coronavirus no mind. That’s all psychologically cleansing – and in the process, you can get some exercise. Speaking of:

Exercise! It’s medicine

A man walks on a trail through the woods.
Looking for ideas for social distancing in Colorado? You don’t have to waste hours at home in front of the television. Get out into Colorado’s abundance of nature. Photo: Getty Images.

Whether it be a brutal strength routine or a walk around the park, exercise reduces risks across the health spectrum: of heart disease, diabetes, injury, depression and much more. If you have a home gym, a Peloton, or other cardio equipment, put them to good use. If you don’t, get out and walk or run. You don’t need kettlebells or Olympic plates to stay strong, either. Gravity provides plenty of resistance. Far more useful than YouTube’s cat videos are it’s millions of how-tos, and there’s an abundance of age-specific exercise ideas (for social distancing) out there for those who aren’t quite sure where to start. This applies to kids as well. If they play on a team that’s not playing at the moment, have them set a goal of being the fittest member of that team when they return.

Finally, remember the old saws “attitude is everything,” “life is what you make of it,” and “you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt.” They have never been more important for your health and well-being. By working hard to make the best of a tough situation, we’ll all be better for it.

About the author

Todd Neff has written hundreds of stories for University of Colorado Hospital and UCHealth. He covered science and the environment for the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and has taught narrative nonfiction at the University of Colorado, where he was a Ted Scripps Fellowship recipient in Environmental Journalism. He is author of “A Beard Cut Short,” a biography of a remarkable professor; “The Laser That’s Changing the World,” a history of lidar; and “From Jars to the Stars,” a history of Ball Aerospace.