Are you struggling to stay happy during the COVID-19 outbreak? You can still find peace and contentment even during these tough times. Here is how to find joy during social distancing.
Fear Is the Real Infection
I don’t fear the virus so much. I have a father who has major heart disease and complications from that. I have a son who has severe reactive asthma. I certainly fear it for them. I will be secluding myself in my home for likely the next twelve weeks. But that isn’t what really scares me. The truth is, many will get it and the great majority of us will be just fine.
To be honest, I fear people. I fear their hysteria and panic. Already videos are starting to emerge of people fighting in stores over toilet paper. Toilet paper! The world is not ending. At least not by a virus. People need to calm down. The biggest threat to society is not the virus, it’s panic.
Like all pestilence, Coronavirus will run its course around the globe. In fact, most of the world is already fully involved. Let the bug do its thing. Social distancing will flatten the curve so as not to overwhelm our healthcare system all at once. This bug will never go away. It will make its rounds every year now, much like the flu. Get used to that idea.
Don’t forget that out of all the countries in the world, we in the U.S. have a great advantage. We have a robust health system, some of the top minds, ingenuity, and some of the greatest resources. In twelve to eighteen months, we can even expect to have a vaccine. Already some medications like those used to treat HIV and Malaria look promising in treating Coronavirus. We will be just fine. This will pass. It will not last forever. Stay calm.
Focus On What Really Matters
That said, I want to share how to find joy during social distancing. You know, in some ways, there are silver linings in all of this. I’ve lived in other countries before. Americans are very busy! At the very least, this is causing our busy lives to slow down. Over the next few weeks, we will all be forced to take note of the things that really matter in life.
When this is all over, we will appreciate a lot more. We will appreciate being able to go straight into a store and being able to pick up a pack of toilet paper. Every restaurant will be packed with people. Pews in churches will be full. Things like this show us what we take for granted.
How to Find Joy During Social Distancing
Turn Off the News
Seriously, turn it off. I found myself doing that this week. This will only bring on feelings of doom, panic, and fear. You already know what you need to know about the virus. You really don’t need to know much more than that. If you want to start feeling “normal” again, turn off the news. The media has already poured gasoline all over this and lit this thing on fire. They’re responsible for inciting the panic we are seeing. Reject it. Choose calm.
Don’t Panic Buy
Like I said, I don’t fear the virus, I fear the hysteria. Most people don’t think of themselves as being hysterical. Hysteria is really just acting out of extreme emotion. Its letting emotion determine your actions instead of common sense, logic, and reason.
You see things disappearing from the shelves and you think, “I better buy some now or there won’t be any left when I need it.” So you grab one. Then you think, ” I better grab two or three. There won’t be any for me.” This fear of missing out is a self-fulfilling prophecy. People overbuy because they fear there will be a shortage. Shelves are empty. So they attempt to buy more fearing there is nothing more coming. Now a shortage grows and it drains supply chains. And the cycle continues. Stop the madness. Decide that from now on, you will only buy what you would normally buy. The only way this cycle stops is when people decide to return to normal.
Don’t just do your part to flatten the curve. Do your part to end the insanity. Choose which emotion you will feed – peace or fear.
Connect With Someone Everyday
Text your friends. Reach out to relatives. Take advantage of FaceTime and other video chats. Connect through Facebook or IG Live. Utilize the tools we have to stay in touch virtually. I even took some time this week to write some letters to family. I challenge you to reach out to at least one person every day. Check up on people. It’s very important to maintain socialization even though we are physically distant. Its the heart of what it means to be human. Now is a great time to focus on maintaining and investing in relationships.
Did you know your body’s brain chemistry responds to sunlight? When your body detects sunlight through the optic nerve, your melatonin levels decrease (the neurochemical that makes you feel sluggish and sleepy) and your serotonin increases (the neurochemical that elevates mood). If you have a backyard, spend as much time as you can in it. Go for a walk around your neighborhood. If you are in an apartment, take your laptop on the balcony and work outside. We aren’t stuck indoors. We are just trying to stay physically distant from others. Take a hike in nearby hills. Grill out and eat dinner outside. Have your kids ride their bikes. Garden. Spend some time outdoors and you won’t feel so cooped up. Remember we aren’t avoiding the outdoors, we are avoiding crowds.
Move Your Body
Staying active can do wonders for your mood. Try to stay active even while we are at home these next few weeks. Take a walk. Exercise. Just move your body. It increases serotonin levels, makes you feel refreshed and gives you more energy. These days, there are lots of home workouts you can stream. You can even find free ones on YouTube.
Part of the panic buying is because we are afraid we “do not have.” One way to stay grounded during a time when others are fretting and worrying is to remember all that we already have. We have already been given much. I challenge you to take five minutes out of every day and write down five things for which you are grateful. Alternatively, you can do my Gratitude Journal Prompts and answer one question a day. Staying grateful helps you stay positive. Focus on the positive!
Over the last couple of days, I’ve seen people on Facebook asking for posts that aren’t virus-related. The constant bombardment of the panic, hysteria, and fear-mongering posts is stressful. I admit I was sharing a lot of that stuff. But as I scrolled through my newsfeed and saw people begging for something else – anything else – I decided that I will start turning the tide. I’m going to start posting normal, everyday things. Happy things. Encouraging things. I’m going to be a light in the darkness. I will remind people that it’s going to be okay. People need to hear that.
I challenge you, go out and be a light. Be encouraging. Be uplifting. Spread peace. Invite calm. Don’t engage the fear, the hysteria, and the madness.
Take Breaks From Social Media
That said, take a break from social media. I know it can feel like a lifeline right now, but its also flooded with virus-related negativity, debates, and fear-mongering news. I’m not purposing that we stick our head in the sand when I suggest avoiding this. I’m suggesting balance. Take breaks and get your mind off coronavirus for a little while. The truth is, social media hasn’t connected us the way we’d hoped. If anything it made relationships more hollow. If you really want to know what is going on in someone’s life right now, pick up the phone and call them, FaceTime, or text them. Today I avoided social media and it felt amazing! I had no idea how much anxiety was being driven by Facebook.
I once read something that described anxiety as a fear-centric TV show that we produce and direct ourselves. We take snippets of images and themes in our head and turn it into a fear-centric show with ourselves as the star. We imagine and play out our worst fears over and over again as if it is really happening. Prayer is effective because it makes God the star and not us. God becomes the hero. Exactly one year ago, I created a 30-day scripture reading for anxiety and fear. You can follow along by doing one verse per day.
I highly encourage you to pray when you start feeling overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, worry or fear. God promises never to leave us in times like these. More than any other phrase in the bible, the “do not fear” mantra appears more than 300 times in scripture. God knew how scared we would be about the unknown, but he tells us over and over again that we are not to fear, not to panic and he is always with us. Scared? Pray. Worried? Pray. Anxious? Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit for his peace.
Create & Stay Busy
Most people don’t idle well. When our brain isn’t engaged, sadness and boredom can set in. Stay busy. The biggest silver lining in all of this is that we are being forced to slow down. We are normally so busy and this is forcing us to cut out obligations and events. Take a week or two just to rest. Then get back to keeping active. Treat it like a staycation. Attitude is everything!
- Find a way to volunteer virtually.
- Try new recipes in your cookbook.
- Bring out your craft supplies and create something.
- Play virtual games with friends.
- Declutter / reorganize your home
- Mix cocktails at home.
- Play games as a family.
- Read or Host a Virtual Book Club
- Write short stories
- Stream exercise videos (there are lots on youtube)
- Take some online courses.
- Learn a new language
- Binge watch some movies
- Keep a journal
- Wash your cars
- Learn a new skill
- Do a crossword puzzle
- Do woodworking
- Get some DIY projects done. Fix things you’ve been meaning to fix.
- Take virtual tours of museums, national parks, etc
- Put your Christmas lights back up to add some cheer.
I’ll write a separate post on all the things you can do at home, but here are some ideas to start with.
Helping others has a dual effect. Obviously, it helps someone in need, but it also makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. It feels good to help other people. The panic buying? That”s selfishness. Reach out to those around you and see how you can help each other. Barter supplies. Do small acts of kindness for people you know. Check in with elderly neighbors. See if they need anything. In moments like these, the world needs our humanity, kindness, and mercy. If you are looking for a more corporate way of giving back, there are websites online that allow you to volunteer virtually.
I didn’t really get to celebrate my birthday because of all of this. Normally I’m not a big birthday person, but it was a milestone this year. I turned 40. So this week, I decided to treat myself to some art supplies that I wanted. A couple of nights ago, for example, I made a few dozen chocolate chip cookies for absolutely no reason. These days, you may feel very worried. Make sure to take opportunities to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself here and there to small, simple pleasures.
If you are feeling stressed over this, remember to take this one day at a time and reject worrying about the weeks ahead. Keep busy with your family and remember that this will all end soon. We will survive this.
If you are looking for things to do with your kids at home take a look at my post, Boredom Busters for Kids.