Op-ed: How to cope with social isolation

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - 12:45pm

The drawbacks of social distancing can include loneliness, reduced productivity and loss of health benefits associated with human interaction. Happy hours, fitness classes, traveling and football games activate the body’s senses and make for a pleasant experience — so much so that people crave and seek out more of these interactions. So when left to our own resources, many are wondering, “How can we handle social distancing?”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social distancing is necessary to reduce the probability of contact between persons carrying an infection and others who are not infected. Bottom line: By staying home you reduce the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and then unknowingly infecting others.

Not all people will experience the stress of this outbreak in the same way. The common ground is the shared responsibility to contain coronavirus in our communities. Worried or not, now is not the time to carry on like normal.

Many of us are scared, anxious, tired and sad. Take comfort in knowing this will pass and the drawbacks of social distancing are temporary. Use the time wisely to connect with yourself and come out the other side stronger. Right now, self-care is your health care; do as much as you can.

Be sure to be self-shielding.

Being within six feet of someone who is sick can get you and your personal space contaminated with COVID-19. Now is the time to overindulge in screen time to completely avoid respiratory droplets of others when we talk, sneeze and cough — these can land on surfaces or in your mouth or nose. Skype or FaceTime your friends and conduct meetings over video conferencing platforms.

Prepare meals at home.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on Monday closing all Michigan restaurants and bars. There is no antibiotic (they are designed for bacterial infections, not viral ones like the novel coronavirus) to treat COVID-19. Scientists are already working on a vaccine, but they don’t expect to have a good vaccine until spring of 2021 at the earliest. It’s best to stock up on groceries for a two-week period of time, and prepare all meals at home. Use this time to fuel on healthy foods — avoid sugar, salt and white flour — to keep your immune system strong.

Work out at home.

Thirty minutes is the magic number when it comes to reaping the benefits of exercise. Doing a workout that is out of your typical routine will challenge your body and keep your mind active. Find a workout video online and get your family involved. Utilize your backyard for breaks and a few laps to stretch your body.

Wash your hands.

Twenty seconds of scrubbing. Do this often, and be careful about maintaining good hand-washing and cleaning of high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and countertops. Remind yourself not to touch your face.

Self-care is your health care.

Ask yourself: What do you like to do? Avoid sedentary habits in the home — instead tackle home projects and organization. Read books, do journaling activities — anything you can do to set up your comeback when self-isolation is no longer recommended. Channel the creativity inside of you — keep pushing through. Are you doing all that you can?

Dr. Rubina Tahir is a board-certified chiropractor and wellness expert and can be reached at chiro@rubinatahir.com.