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Social Distancing: What it Means for Mental Health

If you are living anywhere in the world you have likely heard about what is going on with COVI-19 aka coronavirus. It has now been classified as a pandemic and many countries are dealing with outbreaks happening so fast their healthcare systems can’t keep up. And so, the United States is asking for social distancing from its people. Some states have taken stricter precautions than others, but all in all the consensus is that if we practice social distancing we will help to slow down and hopefully stop the spread of this virus we know so little about and hopefully be able to get back to our regular routines as quickly as possible.

So what does this mean? Many who can work from home should do so, and many schools, if not all, have been cancelled for 2 weeks if not indefinitely at this point. I encourage you to think about that for a minute – schools are not only a place of learning but they are a place of security, structure and meals. If the government feels so strongly that closing schools and sports activities is a means to help stop the spread of this virus, let us not counteract those efforts by taking our children into public places with the masses, it is not a time for playdates with friends and big gatherings. I put a lot of thought into offering groups during this time to help get kids off their tablets/phones and into nature as we typically encourage at Healing Hoofbeats of CT and then stopped to think about what that would mean. Children

from all different areas would be coming together and possibly be spreading something even more. So as much as I would love to offer programming and groups for our community it is best to remain at home as much as we can.

There may come a time during this pandemic where we are not just strongly encouraged to stay home, but are required to do so in many ways. I know many parents are already jokingly (and not so jokingly) wondering how they will weather the storm of having their children home for 14 days and what that will be like. There is also the real struggle of having to be home with our children, which may mean for some missing a substantial amount of work and the overall and immediate burden that can have on a family financially. There may be some things that are out of our control and some things we may need to rely on others for, such as getting through this crisis to the other side and coming together as a community for support.

What we can control is helping our mental health. One thing we have learned over the years is that our mental health directly affects our physical health. If our mental health is strongly compromised it affects our immune system and our ability to fight off viruses and sicknesses. In a time when we are encouraged to not interact with others as well as the possible increase in anxiety regarding this pandemic, I encourage you to take time to assess what is in your control and how you can sustain your mental health while we weather this storm together. Here are some helpful tools:

  • Be outside as much as you can. This does not mean go to a busy park or the McDonalds playscape that’s outside. If you have a yard, play in it. Whether you are an adult or child we feel better and happier when playing. We can’t control having to be home, so get off your screens and engage in a healthy game of soccer or catch with your family. It’s spring time, what a better time to start spring cleaning your yard? If you make it a game, it doesn’t feel like a chore (hint hint to all you parents out there!).

  • Limit the amount of time you are interacting with the media. It is important to stay informed during this time as we learn more; however, know your personal limits. Take time away from screens and the media to do something that makes you feel good. What warms your soul? Instead of listening to newscasts and media or looking at what your friend has posted on social media, consult the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) ( or ) for information.

  • Limit screen time in general. Especially with youth, this is a time when their structure and “work” is cancelled. It is easy to get sucked into being on screens all day. Whether that be phones, tablets, computers or TVs. We’ve said it before, there is a direct correlation between many hours of screen time and increased depression and mental health diagnoses. We definitely don’t want this to increase during this time. Instead, provide structure for your kids and yourself around how much time is allowed for screens and offer alternatives, be it one of these suggestions here, or things such as board games, card games, making forts in the living room, learning to cook a new meal together or start that project you’ve been putting off.

  • What better time to clean out your closet, declutter your house or begin building that garden bed you wanted to do? I for one will be making plans to build a chicken coop and garden beds for herbs for the horses!

  • Exercise! Staying active is incredibly helpful for our mental health. If you’re home, unable to work or working from home there are pretty much no excuses. Even 30 minutes a day helps elevate our moods. Get that blood pumping and that heart pounding! This could mean taking the dog for a walk/run, getting on youtube and finding a workout video, using those weights that have been collecting dust. Anything!

  • Eat healthily. Another great thing that helps our mental AND physical health. I know the grocery stores have slim pickings right now and can be somewhat of a mad house, but if you can go to the store during a “down time” or less populated time to pick up groceries please do! Making healthy choices helps boost your immune system. Boosting your immune system not only helps your body fight diseases, it also helps elevate your mood. Avoid the sugary things. Everything that you’ve been told but might ignore – its game time now. And hey, it could be a great opportunity to learn a new recipe! Cooking is one way I engage in self-care, so I cannot wait to cook a little more than I usually do.

  • Seek out mental health providers if you are struggling with this pandemic and what it means for you. I typically am one to encourage staying off screens because it can affect our mental health. In this case, I think technology is a blessing. We can stay virtually connected in a time when we are encouraged to not physically interact with others, allowing therapy sessions to continue. Healing Hoofbeats of CT has been able to work with our insurance companies to offer telehealth (therapy through videoconferencing). We are not only offering this to current clients but will be offering this on a short-term basis for those who may not have engaged with us previously in order to help the stability of our mental health. We would be happy to continue on with you once this pandemic has ended in person should you feel you need this.

  • Be creative with your social interactions. Instead of texting, Facetime or call each other. Again, these are bonuses during this time of social distancing. We are still able to see people and hear their voices even if we are unable to physically be in their presence. Texting does not give us the human interaction we crave/need so be mindful of that. There’s no reason why you can’t pick up the phone and call your best friend, or Facetime with your grandparents. Afterall, we are all pretty much homebound! It allows us to all stay safe and healthy AND connected.

I’m sure there are many, many more things you can think of that will help us get through this difficult time with most of our sanity, share what you got! Let’s all help each other get through this and feel the real sense of community in a time when we might begin to feel isolated.

~ Renee

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