Top-down mandates to stay home and keep your distance could very well save your life and that of your loved ones, but it also means that Orlandoans aren’t getting the face-to-face human time we need.
Humans are social creatures and the unintended side effect of COVID-19 is a pandemic of loneliness. Roughly 27 percent of Americans over the age of 60 – an age bracket that COVID-19 is especially at risk for the virus – live alone and 46 percent of women over the age of 75 live on their own too. Add to that fact that social isolation and loneliness can exacerbate existing mental health issues, and you have a real problem.
The World Health Organization is now actively promoting the use of the phrase “physical distancing” because it recognizes the benefits of remaining socially connected, especially during times of crisis. Positive social support is proven to increase our ability to cope with stress, so having a strong friend/family network is key.
With the likelihood of a months-long marathon of self-imposed isolation ahead of us, we’ve assembled some tools for our Orlando friends who may need some help feeling more connected.
CREATE A ROUTINE
There’s a reason why people in movies start making routines when they’re in captivity or jail or somewhere weird where they can’t interact with other people. Routines bring order and purpose to otherwise mundane daily tasks. If you’re used to going to work at a certain time, keep that schedule while working from home. Make time for healthy pastimes like squats in between emails and making your own lunch.
STAY CONNECTED – USE YOUR PHONES
Use those smartphones, people. We don’t all live in Italy where we can haul out our cello to play beautiful public concerts with people on their porches unless you live in South Eola. We’re just not that dense of a cityscape yet. But, you still have your smartphone. Make a list of your friends, family, and neighbors and work your way through it. See what they’re up to and if they have any fun projects that could inspire you a bit. Maybe set up a happy hour with friends or a weekly Sunday supper video chat with family members and keep asking them to pass the salt – that’ll never get old.
- Facetime – Only on Apple and it comes with your phone. Lets you video up to eight people and lets you leave video messages.
- Google Hangouts
- Google Duo – It’s really a video conferencing platform and you can have up to eight people on it.
- WhatsApp – Lets you send text messages and make video calls as well as receive and send documents and voice messages.
NEXTDOOR – “HELP MAPS”
Hyper-local social networking app, Nextdoor (Website), has launched a new feature to help neighbors to support each other during the pandemic. Help Maps let neighbors coordinate aid for residents who are at-risk and in need of assistance getting medication or basic supplies. App users can list services they would like to provide for their neighbors based on their address. If you’re one of these helpful map people, consider taking a hot-minute to chat with the neighbor you’re helping, albeit from a healthy six feet away.
MEDITATE – CHILL OUT
Manage your stress levels. Nobody is going to want to talk to you if you’re all wound up and using your shouting crazy voice. Chill out a bit and do some deep breathing.
Prayer and meditation usually include sending out positive thoughts for yourself and for others so taking time to reflect on your self and your loved ones, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs, can be very healing.
Not sure how to meditate? Here’s a little guide out of Berkely. Or just type “meditate” into your favorite search engine.
NETFLIX AND PARTY
You can invite your friends to watch Netflix shows with you now without having to have them in your actual house #nopantsrule. You download the app HERE and add it to Google Chrome. It then makes you a special URL that you share with your friends on Facebook so they can click it, watch what you’re watching, and chat with you about it in real-time.
HOST A SCAVENGER HUNT
You don’t necessarily have to stay in your house all day during the pandemic. You can set up a little scavenger hunt for the locals, and with Easter coming up hot, this could be good timing to hide some treasure. Just take the necessary precautions to ensure you’re not leaving a trail of germs along with your goodies.
Other neighborhoods are hiding stuffed animals in their windows for local kids to find in district-wide “hunts” that can be themed around bears, lions, or even tigers. If you think the word “hunt” is too aggressive for your baby, call it a zoo and get out there.
Share your plans with your neighbors via Facebook Group or Nextdoor.
FOSTER AN ANIMAL
Petting an animal lowers your blood pressure and it’s super fun to do. Find a local organization and ask them if they have a foster program that you could help with. You could help by opening your home to a wee fur baby during the pandemic and they’ll help you by keeping you too busy to worry about the headlines. Plus dogs give you an excuse to go for a walk a few times a day.
Families often cite “financial hardships” as one of the top reasons for having to give up a pet to a shelter.
WHEN TO GET SOME PROFESSIONAL HELP
Staying busy is all well and good, and talking to your friends and family can always help you stave off the loneliness monster, but sometimes you need to ask a professional for help. And that’s okay. A lot of people are feeling anxious right now.
If you think your coping mechanisms are unhealthy – maybe you’re drinking a lot more than usual or leaning into some drug use, ask for help. Friends and family can be good for that, but you can also try to find an online therapist. You can also get help from services like the Crisis Text Line or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.