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New problems with old solutions:
I’m sharing some ideas of how to “cope” with “social distancing.” Tried and true coping strategies have long included the idea of scaling or asking yourself just how bad is it? This might sound similar to the very old but recently popularized method of coping called mindfulness.
For example, if you have to walk in cold water you can say “this is freezing!” or you can say “this would be nice if it was a hot day, I’ll just imagine I am on a hot beach but the water is cold.” You don’t deny what you feel but you do experiment with distorting what you feel—you change the story you are telling yourself about what you feel.
Social distancing (fancy talk for being alone or away from people) is highly recommended right now to curb the spread of Covid-19. And with the recommendation comes some anxiety for some people about being alone.
So, first off, don’t deny that you might be feeling lonely but see if you can come up with a different story about feeling lonely. For example, think of social distancing like a cleansing ritual. Think of it like fasting, or a long sit in a sauna, or a longer bit of meditation or yoga. Tell yourself that taking time away from others will help you appreciate them more, it will help you decide what is important and what is a waste of time. Think about how good it will feel when you do resume your normal social interactions instead of focusing on how bad you feel right now.
Think of it as a good excuse or reason to get to all those things you have put off because of your social life. Now is a good time to clean out that closet, to finish writing that book, to do your taxes before the deadline … think of it as an unexpected bonus of time instead of a forced separation from friends.
Also remember that with social media/technology we are not so isolated as we might have been ten or twenty years ago. Create user groups, make plans for your own media campaign. Pick a theme for each day or week and post accordingly.
Humans have faced isolation since the beginning of time. Loved ones going off to war, families traveling by ship across the oceans, students going away to college before social media existed and when residence hall rooms didn’t have telephones.
If you are feeling a bit down because of social distancing, tell yourself that is okay. You have friends and you miss them. But also remember that humans can also find creative ways to use their time to feel better. You are the author of your own fate (someone famous said that). You are NOT alone in being alone; for a while now we will all be alone, together.
Karl Laves is the associate director of the WKU Counseling Center. He holds a doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia.