It is an understatement to say these are uncertain and frightening times. Discounting those over 102 who experienced the Spanish Influenza of 1918 (as babies), the majority of people alive today have never experienced a global pandemic with the magnitude of COVID-19. The days, we’re starting to notice, move differently. It’s hard to know what to do. Surrounded by anxiety-inducing news stories and the anticipation of tragedy, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. As leaders worldwide take cautionary measures, in some cases too late, we brace ourselves for impact. What is coming? What is here? 

Fortunately, social distancing presents an opportunity to “flatten the curve (i.e., slow the rate of infection). It gives us something we can do to actively—albeit passive in nature—protect ourselves and others from disease. Read on to learn how to effectively engage in social distancing without losing your mind.

Social Distancing

“Society, hope you’re not lonely without me.” – Eddie Vedder from the Into the Wild soundtrack

You would have to be living under a rock not to know this term by now. However, even just a week ago, most of us had never heard of it.

Social distancing is a tactic historically used to minimize exposure during contagious disease outbreaks. 

These Washington Post visual graphics show how quickly disease can spread when people carry on as normal vs. when people intentionally stay still, maintain distance from others, and no longer engage in social and public gatherings. 

Practically speaking, this can be hard to accomplish, as we are social beings accustomed to being a part of society. In normal times, people have the choice to enter or leave society as they wish—in between extended backpacking trips or anti-social spans of time. Our world feels upside down right now because we no longer have that option. 

Society is, for the foreseeable future, suspended.

You’ve felt the repercussions: schools and businesses closed, entire countries on lock-down, all social events canceled indefinitely. It might feel strange, but social distancing is incredibly paramount in preventing a tragic number of deaths by COVID-19 worldwide. It is everyone’s duty to stay put as much as they can.

Social Distancing Questions Answered

What Should I Avoid When Social Distancing?

Everyone should avoid any unnecessary contact with other people. This means: 

  • If you can, work from home
  • If you must be near others, maintain around six feet of distance
  • Do not shake hands
  • Do not attend large gatherings of people greater than 10 (to be prudent, you should probably avoid any gatherings whatsoever)

What Can I Do When Social Distancing?

There is no reason to spend time exclusively in your basement. Find creative ways to learn, use your imagination, or cultivate social connection:

If you find you have extra time on your hands, don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not incredibly productive with it. It’s better for your immune system to reduce stress, and that doesn’t mean kicking yourself for not writing that novel you said you would write if you had more time.

I’m Young and Healthy: Does This Apply to Me?

Absolutely. In fact, if anything, it applies especially to you. Just because you might not experience life-threatening symptoms does not mean you will not pass the virus on to someone who will. Think of this as your chance to do a service for others. 

Social distancing is a selfless and prudent act that will challenge you to think of others before yourself (and your boredom). 

Please, do not follow the example of reckless St. Patrick’s day partiers at CU Boulder. Their choice to socialize instead of socially distance puts other Coloradans at risk. 

Individualized American Society

In her TEDxMileHigh talk, Jennifer Reich warns us of how deeply individualized American society has become. 

When people refuse vaccines, they believe it is a personal choice that will only impact themselves. This is not the case. In reality, the consequences of denying a vaccine are felt in the community surrounding that individual.

Think about social distancing in the same way. Social distancing is not a personal choice that will impact you and you alone. By socially distancing, you will protect countless others in your community and across the globe. Failing to do so is simply irresponsible and dangerous. Please choose wisely. 

Keep Your Head Up

“Tomorrow, tomorrow! I love ya tomorrow! You’re always a day away!” – Annie the Musical

It may take a while, but we will get through this. So, keep your head up like Tupac and sing to the sun like Annie. Talk to your friends and family. Video chat with your therapist. Read your favorite book two more times. Eat well, wash your hands for 20 seconds, and practice gratitude. Do your part in this global pandemic, and don’t forget to breathe in some fresh air.