It has been three months since the US reported its first coronavirus case, and almost two months since the US began leading the world in COVID-19 cases. As transmission of the virus begins to slow down, and states are reopening, we must remind ourselves that social distancing must continue to be maintained. As we inch closer to reuniting with our friends and family, a reminder that we are not as far from our loved ones as we think we are can help us all get through this tough time.

Some have taken the phrase social distancing quite literally, and have not maintained much contact with their loved ones. However, this article hopes to serve as a reminder that there are many ways to stay in touch while being physically isolated. So, although we are physically distancing ourselves from one another, that does not mean we must cut off all means of social interaction. According to a study from the American Psychological Association, the lack of social connection heightens health risks, and “being connected to others socially is considered an important human need and is vital to one’s well-being.” Additionally, they mention that humans have a need to belong and that a “lack of attachments is linked to a variety of ill effects on health, adjustment, and well being.” Therefore, it is important to make a distinction between social distancing and physical distancing, because knowing the difference could help us all improve our mental health and wellness during this unprecedented time.

Social distancing vs. Physical Distancing

Social distancing is the term being used to direct people to maintain a safe distance of six feet between individuals, as practicing this will help flatten the curve so that frontline responders are not overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. Since this was the first term to be widely coined, many took it to heart and implemented it quite literally; it began to spread the wrong message, one that proved to be detrimental to the mental health of many individuals. Instead, using the phrase physical distancing puts more emphasis on the necessary spatial distancing rather than its social ramifications.

In terms of maintaining social connections, we are lucky enough to live in a time where technology facilitates this. Even when physically isolated, we can get in touch with our family members and friends whether they are across the country or across the world. Instead of becoming discouraged by how isolation may affect you, take control and seize this new opportunity to rekindle those friendships that you have always cared for but never felt there was the appropriate amount of time to put into.

Physical Distancing Activities

As states are beginning to reopen, we may feel the urge to cut down on both the physical and social distancing. Although we should encourage ourselves to continue to socialize, we must be responsible and continue to physically distance ourselves properly. So, what are some good physical distancing activities that can keep you connected to your friends and family? If you haven’t already, try some of the ones below and maybe you will be inspired to come up with some of your own!

Physical Distancing Practices

If you do choose to go on that occasional walk, or the grocery store or pharmacy, make sure to follow the guidelines that have been laid out by your state and/or city to help contain the spread of the virus. Regardless of what your city/state mandates, here is a reminder of some basic rules to keep yourself and your fellow citizens around you safe:

  1. Wear a facemask: Wear either one that you have made on your own, or one the disposable ones (these can now be found in most grocery stores and pharmacies).
  2. Limit your time outside: If you want to go outside to get a breath of fresh air, do so when you also need to grab something essential such as groceries or medication from your pharmacy. This will help you reduce the amount of times you go outside.
  3. Limit your distance from others: Be mindful of the recommended six foot distance. Many pharmacies and stores have made this easier for each individual as they have set up markers at checkout and throughout the store that are six feet apart.
  4. Carry hand sanitizer with you: Sanitize your hands after picking up items from the shelves, because they may have been picked up and dropped back previously by another individual. If you are someone who touches their face often, when out in public make sure to sanitize before and after as well.
  5. Keep sanitizing wipes at your front door: Do this so that when you walk back into your house you can wipe down everything that you bought as well as your hands before touching everything in your house. Additionally, make sure to wipe down your keys and the doorknob. All of this may seem tedious, but it is the best way to make sure that anything brought into your house is clean and properly sanitized.
  6. Wash your hands: Sanitizing your hands is not a foolproof replacement for properly washing your hands, so make sure to do so when you come back home.

Remembering and utilizing all these tips will help you distance yourself physically from those around you, and lighten the load for our healthcare workers working around the clock. Hopefully, this served as a reminder that although we need to do our best to help out the doctors who are saving lives every single day, we do not have to give up social interaction, and we can support one another to maintain mental wellness during these troubling times. So when talking with your friends, remind them that they do not need to socially distance themselves, but only physically distance themselves. A positive outlook may help raise their mood and spirits, allowing them to better follow the guidelines that have been laid out to keep us safe. Hold yourselves, and the ones you love accountable, but most importantly be there for one another, and stay in touch.