What may have seemed unimaginable in the United States two weeks ago is now a reality. Cities are going on lockdown. Businesses and places of worship are closing their doors. In many areas, people are being instructed to practice “social distancing,” which means staying at least six feet away from others and even staying at home. This is all thanks to COVID-19, a rapidly-spreading virus that has been deadly to the elderly and those with immune disorders.

Although social distancing is important, it can be challenging. Loneliness is rough on your mental and physical health, and studies have shown it can even weaken your immune system. That’s why it’s important to remember that social distancing is different from loneliness and self-isolation. Just because you’re staying at home doesn’t mean you can’t make an effort to maintain relationships with your family, friends and communities. Here are a few ways you can stay social without being physically near other people.

Phone calls and video chat. This may seem obvious, but we really take phone calls and video chat for granted sometimes. Step away from texting and social media and have an actual conversation. Many people are making use of Marco Polo, Skype and Google Hangouts. If you have a large family, you could create a large group message and family members to keep tabs on each other.

Neighborhood events. Social distancing has given us a lot more time to be creative. It’s still possible to hold social events without being in close contact. For instance, this neighborhood hosted a Zumba class that was possible because everyone stayed far away from each other. Some neighborhoods have hosted “chalk your walk” events, inviting neighbors to draw encouraging messages on their sidewalks for walkers to enjoy. You also could invite neighbors to hang fun pictures in their windows.

Get together with a friend, social distancing style. The CDC recommends staying six feet away from others, not avoiding them completely. If your community isn’t on lock down, you can still spend time with a friend while maintaining social boundaries. Arrange for a car lunch date, where you each both bring a sack lunch, park near each other and talk from a distance. Go on a walk together and stay a safe distance apart. Go on a walk around your neighborhood and shout hello to friends and neighbors doing yard work.

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How are you coping with social distancing?

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