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How To Thrive (Stay Sane) While Social Distancing

What a time to be alive! We are currently in the throngs of a global crisis with COVID-19 touching too close to home. In just a couple short weeks we (Canadians) went from thinking “oh man that really sucks for China/Italy/South Korea/Iran” to now hearing stories of neighbours, friends, colleagues who have been affected by the virus. All of us in the Greater Toronto Area should be practicing social distancing, which means working from home (for those of us who are lucky to be able to do so), avoiding gyms/restaurants/public spaces, and generally minimizing contact with others.

social distancing, isolation, covid-19, work from home

This brings up a few really important things for me:

  1. I am an introvert and generally maintain a pretty small social circle so social distancing doesn’t seem all that treacherous to me. However, there are many people who need multiple forms of social interaction daily, or there are others who are already isolated on a regular basis and so having 0 contact with anyone for an unknown amount of time is devastating. What can be done?

  2. I too went grocery shopping a couple times last week in fear of supply chain issue, shortages, and the apocalypse (kidding…). As I walked the aisles though, I couldn’t help but notice what things people were buying, and I began to question my own choices. I came to the conclusion that Doomsday shopping is MUCH different than regular shopping but should it be?

  3. Working from home (or WFH as my siblings and I call it for short) is a gift. Not everyone can do this and those that can are very, very fortunate. With that said, the big concern people have when WFH is that their productivity drops. What can be done for those who are not used to WFH or for those whose productivity drops?

How To Un-Isolate While Maintaining Distance

Social distancing does not have to mean social isolation. The key to social distancing is maintaining physical distance, not emotional. So, there are lots of ways to connect with others during this time, namely resorting back to the telephone or using video chat platforms. Try video hangouts with your friends and family and reach out to those who you haven’t talked to in a while. You can also write some emails, letters, cards, love notes, etc to people that may appreciate you thinking of them during this time. Lots of people will experiencing worsening of depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Check in on your loved ones frequently and try not to just talk about the virus! My 95 year old grandmother is in nursing home and no visitors are allowed at the moment, so she’ll be getting lots more phone calls from us!

“Quarantine” Food Does Not Have To Be Unhealthy!

Technically, we are not under quarantine yet as grocery stores have still remained open for all to visit as needed, so there’s no reason to completely forgo all veggies/fruits/fresh food and only eat canned/processed/packaged things. What we’ve done in our condo with limited space is leave the freezer full of frozen veggies, berries, and meat, and keep the refrigerator filled with our usual fresh produce, eggs, coconut yogurt, nut butter, etc. We plan on leaving the things in the freezer untouched in case of real quarantine. We shop for several days worth of produce rather than just 1-2 days to limit the amount of time we need to leave. We have a cupboard of nuts, seeds, oats, Paleo pancake mix, dried & canned beans, honey, pasta noodles, tomato sauce, rice, and protein powder. We also have lots of olive oil, vinegars, and herbs on hand (typical for us), and generally tried to avoid buying things that we normally wouldn’t eat, or are unlikely to eat after this passes. We have really enjoyed not needing to wake up super early and have made lots of delicious brunch type meals (which we never get to do!). Also, we completely avoided buying chips and candy because I do not have self-control when things are around and ESPECIALLY if I have to look at it all day at home!

How To Work From Home

For some people, working from home (WFH) is a gift and a curse. On one hand, you could stay in your PJs all day. But on the other hand, there could be an endless amount of distractions. I personally enjoy working from home and find that once I get in a flow, I’m equally or sometimes more productive than when I’m out as I can lock myself in my room and have hours of solitude/no external interruptions (note: I do not have kids). For those who just need to get through the next few weeks of WFH, here are some tips:

  1. Create a routine. Wake up at your normal time, get dressed like you would for work, and start working at your normal time. Routine is always the easiest way to get used to something.

  2. Choose a designated workspace and declutter it. Having random things around you isn’t going to help get you into the productivity mindset. Clean an area and treat it like you would your office/desk.

  3. Take a couple of breaks. If you have the ability to safely walk outside for 15 minutes a couple times during the day, make sure you do so. Staying inside all day can increase your irritability and decrease your ability to focus so if you can, take a few minutes to recharge outside. If you can’t go outside, take a short physical/mental fitness break where you do a meditation/deep breathing session, get in some squats/pushups, or do something else that helps you mentally re-focus.

  4. Create boundaries. When WFH, it can be easy to make every minute a work minute. When your work day is over, log off and “come back home” in a sense. Try to avoid answering emails at all hours of the day.

Hope everyone stays happy and healthy! Although both of my clinic locations are closed for in-person visits, I am available for telemedicine consults (phone or video consults). Please reach out to me if you need to book an appointment!

Christine Cho, ND

Naturopathic Doctor

The Pain & Wellness Centre/Toronto Specialty Rapid Access Clinic

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