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Emotional and Physical Health in a time of Social Distancing

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Social distancing. It’s what we all must do to prevent a spike in COVID-19 (Coronavirus) infections. More people unknowingly spreading the virus means more people sick. More people sick means a wave of critical cases overwhelming our hospitals.

It’s not easy, though. Schools are closed, so the kids are home, going stir-crazy. You might be working at home, or your job is on hold. Sports and entertainment events are cancelled, restaurants and nightspots are closed.

You might live alone. Isolation is terrible for people already depressed, lonely. And this whole situation is no help if you tend to feel anxiety in more-normal times.

You might feel trapped — but there are ways to get out, blow off steam, reach out to others without giving the virus a chance to spread.

1: Get out of the house! (But still avoid people.) Spring is arriving in Michigan, and in our area we have some of the most beautiful forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands in the state. Outdoor activities away from crowds can include biking and walking, boating and kayaking. Take a hike into the woods, practice shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of “forest bathing,” proven to reduce stress. Or simply grab a rod and a bucket of worms and go fishing — a stress reduction method many have practiced in Michigan for eons.

2: Disconnect. It seems there’s breaking news every minute, and keeping up-to-date in this situation is important. But you should give your eyes and mind a break from the screens now and then.

3: Get the kids outside, even if just for games in the yard. Inside, break out the old boardgames, and have the kids teach you how to play that latest video game they’re obsessed about.

4: Alone? Reach out. Brigham Young University research psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad told Science magazine that chronic social isolation increases the risk of mortality by 29%.¬† It’s a particularly common problem with those who are also at most-risk from the coronavirus, seniors. Connect with friends and family through FaceTime and Skype, email, texting, or just old-fashioned talking on the telephone.

5: Know someone who’s alone? Reach out. The stress of being alone is reduced when a person knows they have people they can count on, Holt-Lunstad said. And it’s a two-way benefit. “Any one of us can pick up a phone and call to see how people are doing and what they might need,” Holt-Lunstad said. “Not only will helping others potentially help them, but it can help us to still feel connected as well.”