It is not good that the man should be alone.
— Genesis 2:18
“We always say that one of the key factors in maintaining well-being is socializing, social contact, social support,” said Carolyn Phelps, a licensed psychologist who treats clients at DreamLife Psychological Services. “And ideally, that is face to face.”
But what if a new virus is sweeping the nation? What if health experts and government officials are telling us to stay at home and keep our distance?
We turned to two psychologists — Phelps and Heather Rose-Carlson of Northland Psychological Services, for some pointers.
Here’s what we learned:
Let technology work for you. “The younger generation has already figured out some of these ways of connecting without being together,” Rose-Carlson said. “Where I’m a generation Xer. So this will give me an opportunity to figure out how to connect with family and friends.” It’s especially good for parents home with the kids all day to connect with other parents, Phelps said.
If you live in a family unit, take breaks from each other, Phelps said. Let Mom have the living room to herself for a while. But not to the extent that each family member stays in his or own room for eight hours. “We don’t want people to pod themselves.”
We’re creatures of routine, Rose-Carlson said. So build a routine for this new normal. “To keep down anxiety, routine is one of the key pieces.”
Families can find things to do together, Phelps said. “There can be game night and movie night and ‘let’s bake cookies together’ or ‘let’s do this craft thing.’”
Use the extra time to knock some items off your to-do list, Rose-Carlson suggested. “One of the things I’m going to be doing with my daughter — she’s raring to go through the closets and do some purging.”
Get some exercise, preferably outdoors, Phelps said. “Regular exercise for mild to moderate depression is as effective as antidepressants,” she said. “The fact that your favorite gym is closed and you maybe can’t do it in your favorite way doesn’t mean you can’t walk outside your door.”
If you live alone, it’s a good time for creative thinking, Phelps said. “Is this the time that you get to read that book that’s been sitting there that you’ve been wanting to get into? Or is this the time when you finally start doing yoga? Or finally start meditating?”
Practice gratitude. Research shows that doing so builds up resilience in trying times, Phelps said. “Ideally, write it down in your own handwriting. Not just that you like the sunshine, but what you love about it.”
Laugh. “Here’s the one time where we say, ‘Yeah, watch the comedies; watch the feel-good movies,’” Phelps related. “Watch the cat videos.” Or make videos on TikTok with your own cat, she added. Or have your teenager document your family surviving the pandemic.
Practice random acts of kindness. “That’s a fun thing … that families can be doing is where the challenge of the day is everybody does a random act of kindness,” Phelps said. “And you know that the old rule about the random act of kindness is that you don’t disclose to anybody that you did it.”
Sure, follow the news about COVID-19. Stay up to date. But don’t follow it to the point that it becomes an addiction, Phelps said.
To get help
Some of us may need extra help coping with the pandemic. Northland Healthy Minds has put together a resource page to help you know where to turn. Find it online at northlandhealthyminds.org/covid-19-resources.
Here is an additional list of resources from the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota:
Call the warm line at 651-288-0400 or text “Support” to 85511 or call 844-739-6369.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
Use the Crisis Lifeline by texting MN to 741741.
Call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990.
Online support groups at namimn.org.
Learn more about providers FastTrackerMN.org.
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