In extending my hand, I realized I violated the six-feet rule of social distancing and was headed toward an even bigger violation if the person before me shook my out-stuck paw.
Social distancing is hard, especially if you live in hand-shaking, fist-bumping world like me. In two weeks, social distancing — limiting large groups of people coming together, closing buildings, canceling events and limiting personal contact — has become an international catch-all phrase.
Do we, those of us surrounded by the coronavirus, have a grasp of the importance of social distancing?
By my observation, no.
I asked medical professionals Dr. Steve Kopp and Janet Hill about social distancing as well as the anxiety of isolation. Hill is the chief operating officer of the Rock Island County Health Department and and Dr. Kopp is the director of Genesis Psychology Associates.
"We can still be social, yet keep a safe distance from those around us as we battle the coronavirus. Unexpected stress and change can significantly undermine our sense of control," Kopp said.
Ironically Dr. Kopp is in the middle of a two-week self-isolation period. After being diagnosed with a respiratory issue (not COVID-19) that puts him at a higher risk for COVID-19 if he were in public, he was told to self-isolate for 14 days. He is at home running his office.
Kopp and Hill offered some Do's and Don'ts on how to maintain a safe, physical social-distancing balance and mental wellness during the outbreak.
- Practice staying six feet from each other. It is the prescribed distance safe enough to avoid a powerful cough or sneeze droplet propelling the the virus onto you.
- Stay inside. Work from home if possible, but stay connected to those you love. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Talk with the neighbors, but do it in an open setting, keeping at least six feet apart.
- Understand social distancing doesn't mean "disconnected.'' Go to the grocery store and if you need a break from cooking, get takeout, but make lists, have a plan, limit your errands to one day a week and work to avoid creating resource scares.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths regularly, stretch, and practice mindfulness. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Limit caffeine as it increases anxiety and stimulation. Bust out the bike and keep the dog busy, because everyone needs a walk partner.
- Unplug from the pandemic: Repeatedly watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media, is upsetting and taxes your nervous system. Take breaks from it.
- Unwind: Balance hobbies, activities you enjoy and healthy escapism. Relaxation, laughter, and smiling are beacons that you’re doing something right. Binge your favorite shows and movies together.
- Use public transportation if you must, but keep proper distance when riding. Understand your surroundings, especially when its a rush-hour situation.
- Gather in groups or travel long distances. Don't leave the country.
- Visit grandma or grandpa: The federal government is asking visitors to stay away from nursing homes and retirement or long-term care facilities. This one is tough, because social isolation is already a problem for many of the elderly. Do, however, call or connect with them. Texts, e-mail, phone calls, Facetime. Tell them you love them, just don't drop by to do it.
- Wear a mask: If you are not ill, you don't need one. Plus, there is a nationwide shortage and the mask you don't need could be used by a healthcare professional.
- Make a non-essential visit to a doctor or dentist. Re-reschedule it.
- Have friends over for a visit: Once again, think virtual — maybe have a video chat or Facetime happy hour. Wine O'Clock is a fun one with friends. For kids, practice the same except for the wine.
- Give up. Stay the course and do your part. We will get through this.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309 757 8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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