We have been social distancing for over a year now, but are we good at it yet? The honest answer is, well, probably not!  If we’ve been expected to stay home as frequently as possible and keep six feet apart in public for so long, you might be thinking “shouldn’t we be used to it by now?”

Actually, no, we shouldn’t.

The fact is humans are very social animals.  We thrive in groups and we need social and physical connection.  So, how can we meet these basic human needs while keeping ourselves and others safe during this pandemic?

Here are a few tips for coping with Social Distancing and isolation.

Set regular or recurring virtual events in your calendar
Make a habit of committing to connecting in safe ways with other people on a recurring basis. It doesn’t have to be a daily occurrence, but it should be something you will find interesting and engaging; and it should happen on a regular basis. Give yourself something fun to look forward to. A weekly phone call with family, bi-weekly video chat with friends or a monthly game night online are all good options. The event itself doesn’t really matter, as long as the connection is genuine.

Give yourself permission to feel the need to connect
Even if you have regularly scheduled virtual events, or if you live in a home full of people, you might still feel lonely or need to connect with others on occasion.  Remember to give yourself permission to feel vulnerable and recognize that you are experiencing normal human emotions. Stop what you are doing and reach out. A spontaneous phone call, an email or text message can go a long way to feeling better and getting through that void.

Check-in with people and let them check-in with you
Ask people how they are coping when you connect with them. Be ready to listen to them and provide your own experiences in return. Be honest about how you’re feeling. Often times, simply saying something out loud – giving names to our feelings – can reduce their weight on our minds.

Take advantage of virtual mental health services
The whole world is learning to change their habits and many services are offering virtual options over the phone or online. Take advantage of the free or affordable resources that are available to you. These include:

Use delivery and curbside pickup options
Reducing unnecessary physical contact doesn’t mean you have to give up shopping (for necessities or otherwise). Most stores are now set up to allow delivery or curbside pickup. Go ahead and try out a new home renovation project or learn a new hobby or skill. You can purchase lessons, resources, or material you need. This is the perfect time to get creative!

Get outside safely
There are many ways to spend time outdoors safely.  When weather permits, try to spend a little time outside every day. You can go for walks or hikes or even simply sit in your backyard or on your balcony.  Getting some sunshine in can help boost your mood and get that important vitamin D in your system!

Consider joining a virtual community
It is important for humans to feel like they belong. When we can’t spend time with our friends and family in ways we used to, it can be helpful to turn to a virtual community of like-minded people. This could be a support-group, or simply a community of people who share the same interest.  In the same vein, finding a pen pal to exchange letters, an online hobby group or a joining a book club could help you feel connected in new and meaningful ways.

Don’t forget to exercise and eat well
I know, I know… it makes every list! But there’s a reason for it. When we eat better and we move our bodies, we tend to feel better. There are definitely ways to do this while maintaining social distance. Many exercises don’t require specialized equipment or gym memberships – you can usually make do with clearing some space to move freely (in your living room or backyard, maybe). You tube has full libraries of workouts from cardio, yoga, Pilates, weightlifting and more.

Combining any of the above suggestions can help to boost our moods and allow us to continue enjoying our lives despite the restrictions we face.