5 Ways to Reduce the Negative Mental Effect of Social Distancing
by Jamie Spannhake
April 18, 2020
I’ve been hearing people say that COVID-19 and the corona virus, and especially the social distancing portion of it, is going to define a generation of children much like 9/11 defined many people. That got me thinking: “what can I do to make whatever the effect is less negative?” And “how can I help my child, who is one of those children who may be defined by this event?” “What can I do to make the effect not so negative?”
One of the first things I thought about that I want to focus on is making sure that I enjoy and relish the togetherness that we have. It can be challenging sometimes to be together so much, but talking about how grateful I am to be able to spend this time with my family is really important. And making it known how much I enjoy being with my daughter, is important for my daughter to know.
The second thing I thought of that I really want to focus on is making sure my daughter understands the importance of movement and exercise to our mental health. This is a great opportunity to teach her that and to model that behavior. It is so important to our mental health that we exercise and take care of our bodies, and I can model that behavior by regularly exercising. My daughter can experience this in a way that’s different than when she’s at school. She always has P.E. and recess and she knows that she feels good after P.E. and recess, but now she really has an opportunity to connect the two: the exercise and physical health to her mental health.
The third thing I really want to focus on with my daughter is setting healthy boundaries for alone time. It can be challenging to all be in the same space for so much time. It’s an important skill to learn -- and to practice -- that is okay to separate yourself and have some alone time if you need it. That’s an important thing to do for yourself if you feel like you need it. So, if my daughter needs to go to her room and read a book, or just relax, or take a nap, or whatever it is, she can know that she has a right to do that and it’s an important thing for her if it feels necessary.
The fourth thing that I really want to focus on is appreciating nature. No time is a good time for a pandemic and no time is a good time to be stuck in the house. At least we can see spring coming to life; all of the plants and animals that are out. It’s a great way for us to appreciate nature. And we have the time now to do that now. We aren’t in the car so much. We can actually walk around, go on a trail, walk around the yard, whatever it is, and really appreciate the nature around us. That also is important to our mental health. It’s very important to have the outdoors to help us feel good.
The last thing I really want to focus on with my daughter and help her learn through this experience, and also for me to practice it as well, is that we don’t have to have physical contact in order to be emotionally connected. We can be connected to people though technology and, in life in general, we can be emotionally connected to someone without being physically connected to them. That’s an important lesson to learn and to practice.
And a BONUS that I want to try to work on myself and also help my daughter learn is that downtime is really important. We don’t always need to be doing, producing, being productive and succeeding and achieving. Downtime is really important for our brain health, mental health, and physical health, and for our general happiness.
So, I hope that you enjoyed some of these things that we can focus on to help ourselves and our families, especially our children, come through this pandemic with not too much mental anxiety.
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