25 ways to cope with social distancing

Posted on 05 April 2020

25 ways to cope with social distancing

Current times are tough being separated from everyone and we are stuck between the health risks of coronavirus and the very real health risks of isolation. Here, we take a look at social distancing, the key principles and 25 ways you can cope and even thrive with social distancing.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing is a strategy to minimise the transmission or spread of the new coronavirus which causes COVID-19. Coronavirus spreads rapidly via airborne via droplets with contact, coughs, sneezes and symptoms develop in 2-14 days. Most importantly, the purpose is not spreading to others as much as avoiding infection yourself.

So why are people talking about physical distancing?

Social distancing implies that we are not allowed to be sociable in any way. In reality it is just that we need to keep physical contact to an absolute minimum but we can be creative about how we socialise. Moreover, we have to be, loneliness is as deadly as 15 cigarettes per day.

How do I go about social distancing or physical distancing?

We are now at a stage where everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus. We can only leave our homes to:

  • Shop for necessities, such as food and medicine;
  • Exercise once a day, with or without people you live with;
  • Address medical needs, avoid harm or help someone who is vulnerable; and
  • Travel for work, but only if you cannot work from home

Even each of these needs to be minimised where possible: reduce the frequency of your shopping; try home workouts where possible; contact authorities and doctors via phone or video first unless it is an emergency; and only key workers should be traveling to work. When outside, we need to stay 2 metres away from each other.

When should I self isolate?

  1. If you have a fever or continuous cough, self-isolate for 7 days;
  2. If you live with someone who has these symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days;
  3. If you are pregnant, over 70 or have a health condition, self isolate for 12 weeks, and if housemates have symptoms, self-isolate elsewhere for 2 weeks

This means staying at home and not leaving, getting food and medicine delivered by friends or family, not having visitors unless you have essential care needs and staying 2 metres from everyone in your home.

How can I reduce the spread of coronavirus?

Hygiene advice always applies. It is always good practice, now and beyond the pandemic, to:

  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, any time you change environment;
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve, throw away the tissue immediately and wash your hands;
  • Regularly clean objects and surfaces touched often by people in your home; and
  • Clean a shared bathroom after use

A nursing colleague told me that food poisoning cases are down 50% in her hospital and it is because everyone is following the hygiene advice. We should always look to maintain these principles for our safety and for others.

All of this sounds so tough, how can I cope with social distancing?

Every cloud has a silver lining. There are many challenges posed by social distancing but challenges are also opportunities. There are so many coping strategies you can develop in this time, with which you may even go on to thrive. Here are 25 ways to cope with social distancing to get you started:

1. Shift your perspective

While social distancing is indeed very tough on all us, especially the vulnerable, it is tough on all of us. Unlike many of life’s problems which feel like we are all alone, we are actually all in this together and the responses from all people in all corners of the world are a testament to that. For every event you have had cancelled, family member you cannot see or business you are watching fail, there are millions of others in the same boat and we can learn from each other to pull through.

Remote working while social distancing

2. Use platforms such as Hangouts, Zoom and Slack for work communications and meetings

These and many other collaborative working platforms are freely available, have special offers on premium features to support during coronavirus and each have unique features to suit how you work. Personally I’m a big fan of Hangouts {referral} because you can use subtitles in real-time and record them automatically as a transcript

3. Optimise your workstation ergonomically

Using your laptop in bed and on the sofa may seem fun, but keeping awkward posture all days is a recipe for low back pain. Check out this post for the full guide on optimising your workstation and posture to avoid low back pain.

4. Plan and schedule your work

Fail to prepare… Without planning, getting work done is a lot harder. You have to take time management seriously. Try calendar blocking or tools like TimeNavi to help you learn to manage your time.

5. Separate your work and relaxation spaces

If you work in your bedroom or living room it can be really hard to mentally disconnect that space from work. Give each space you occupy a dedicated purpose. Work in your office, relax in the lounge and sleep in your bedroom.

6. Put yourself first and find life:work balance

Many of us are workaholics trying to grapple with chronic stress. Stress is going nowhere so we have to build resilience in order to cope. When you plan out your time, plan your personal life first: family, food, exercise. Making these non-negotiable will give you balance back.

7. Optimise your productivity

It can be really tough to get working when you are in your home environment which is associated with downtime and relaxation. As well as planning your time you have to find tools to reinforce your structure and keep you accountable. Try daily check-ins with a housemate, work dates on Zoom or keeping your time accounted for using Clockify.

Cooking, eating and nutrition when social distancing

8. Cook fresh food from raw ingredients

If you do not know how to cook, now is the perfect time to learn. Gather fresh, raw ingredients and cook healthful meals from scratch. Eat a variety of fruit and (green) vegetables to keep your immune system strong. Try Abel & Cole for your veg or Rendall’s Online for your meat {affiliates}

9. Cook with people around you and share meal times with loved ones

Divide and conquer the cooking burden with those you live with. Cook and eat mindfully by turning off the TV and other distractions to make the most of the experience.

10. Share recipe ideas with friends or take a course

We can always find new recipe ideas from those around us. Share what you have made with your friends and see what they are cooking. If you want to take your cooking to the next level, you could try out Masterclass.

Movement and exercise while social distancing

11. Get outside daily, somewhere quiet or your back garden

Make maximum use of your one public outing. Try taking a quaint walk through nature. Do not be afraid to use your back garden too if you have one to get outside multiple times a day for mini breaks that will refresh your mental state.

12. Do home workouts with a workout buddy

Try an at home workout. You can use apps like Thenics, programmes like The Movement Athlete {affiliate} and just a few bits of home gym equipment {affiliate} to get a gym-worthy session in. Add to your accountability by finding a buddy at-home or online to share your progress and compete with.

13. Try online group classes

So many fitness professionals are being very generous during the coronavirus pandemic with free classes on Facebook and Instagram live. Organisations like MindBodyGreen are making their content available too.

14. Integrate movement throughout your day

Yes, gyms are closed but you now have an opportunity to integrate multiple movement opportunities into your day. Take a morning walk, use a cycle under your desk while working, do 10 minute kettlebell {affiliate} workouts randomly throughout the day.

Thinking and stress during social distancing

15. Use only reliable sources to get your coronavirus updates

There is too much nonsense flying around on WhatsApp. Mute notifications from people and groups that are not reputable and only get your updates from reliable sources like your government and the WHO. If you want access to all my favourite resources I have collated them on our WhatsApp advice line.

16. Timebox when you get your coronavirus updates to 1 hour max

Unless you are a healthcare professional, you do not need to be getting constant updates about coronavirus all day. Give yourself a maximum of 1 hour per day to get your updates so you don’t get overwhelmed.

17. Find your favourite stress-coping tool and use it daily

This could be anything that works for you. Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, music, journalling. Find your favourite and use it daily to keep up your mental state. Use apps like Headspace or Calm to get you started.

18. Try group meditation, mindfulness or yoga online

Many meditation, mindfulness and yoga experts are doing free online classes via Facebook and Instagram live. Doing this as a group makes it more sociable and you may even grow your network. If yoga is your thing, try Movement for Modern Life {affiliate}.

19. Take a course on managing stress

When battling stress, we need to understand it, how to manage it and how to get into the opposite state, known as flow. Try this course to help you get there.

20. Learn something new or old

With all the extra time you have, why not pick up something new. There are tonnes of online courses {affiliate} through which you can learn new skills and get qualifications. You could even pick up that old guitar you always wanted to play.

Sleeping during social distancing

21. Get as much natural light as possible in the day and minimise light exposure at night

Spend your day surrounded by lots of natural light through the windows and when you get outside. Avoid excessive screen time in the evenings. Take an hour away from screens before going to bed. Make sure there is no light in your bedroom at night. All of this will keep your body clock on point to bring about restful sleep.

22. Keep a regular bedtime and nightly routine

Having a routine before bedtime lets your body know to get ready for sleep. Do the same things before bed every night. Write in your journal, wash your face, brush your teeth. Whatever it is, do it in the same order at the same time every night. It’s not like there are any social events to disrupt your bedtime routine.

Relationships during social distancing

23. Support your community

We are all in this together. Use NextDoor to coordinate efforts in your community to provide support. Do food shopping for the elderly, donate N95 and surgical masks to your local hospital (you can make your own at home), call daily to check in on vulnerable people around you. There are lots of ways to contribute that will help you keep calm and focused during this outbreak.

24. Speak with friends and family on the phone rather than text

We have to maximise the level of connection that we get while maintaining social distancing. This means rather than hiding behind a text as we have become so used to, make the effort to call and do video calls where possible. That way physical distancing is maintained but you still get your social fix.

25. Socialise your activities

You can make pretty much anything you do more social. If you like puzzles, do it as a family. If you like music, listen with someone and share playlists on Spotify. If you like video games, play online with friends. The list is endless.

If you ever need a quick summary of social distancing and how to cope, look at this infographic and share with others:

Infographic - Social Distancing by D K


Dr Dilraj Kalsi uses Lifestyle Medicine and Digital Health to empower patients to reverse disease via his online clinic Hippocrates Lounge. He is a Lecturer in Digital Health at the University of Warwick and publishes regularly on patient empowerment with colleagues from Oxford University. For all his latest health tips straight to your inbox, sign up here!