How To Survive Physical Distancing: 4 Tips for Seniors

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been forced to stay indoors and distance ourselves from friends, family and loved ones. And while some states are already lifting restrictions, physical distancing is still advised for most Americans, especially seniors or those with immunity deficiencies. Such circumstances can lead to feelings of loneliness and anxiety, making it difficult to cope with these emotions. Here we share tips to survive physical distancing in order to help you cope. 

Luckily, there are many virtual tools and technologies that can help us ease our anxiety, maintain social relationships and feel less alone — whether through staying in touch with family and friends, joining virtual community concerts and events, or helping to maintain good mental health.

In this article, we will explore four physical distancing coping tips. As a licensed clinical social worker and behavioral health specialist at Iora Primary Care, I wanted to share helpful ways you can maintain connections and avoid anxiety and stress:

Tip #1:  Maintain social connections 

A masked man is seen video chatting with a masked woman on his cell phone  

Physical distancing makes it difficult to see our friends and family as we would like to. While we can’t physically interact with them, or be in their company, we can still talk to, and connect with them through a number of virtual resources:

  • Schedule time each day to connect with a friend or loved one by phone, email, or through a virtual platform such as Skype or FaceTime.
  • The Institute on Aging offers a toll-free 24-hour hotline that offers emotional support to older adults who may be experiencing loneliness, isolation, anxiety, or depression.  They also provide support to caregivers.
    • Friendship Line:  1-800-971-0016

Maintaining your social connections is a great way to cope with physical distancing. During this time, your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic is of utmost importance. Staying in touch with friends and family is a beneficial way to feel much less lonely and keep your mental health in check during physical distancing

Tip #2: Limit your exposure to media coverage  

A close up of the power button on a TV remote

Although it is important to stay up-to-date on timely, public health information related to COVID-19, too much exposure to the media coverage around COVID-19 may affect our mental health, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, and increased stress.

Sometimes, it helps to take a break from reading or watching the news. Instead of worrying yourself with overwhelming information about the state of the world, opt for another activity that you enjoy to distract yourself. 

Tip #3: Have a balanced daily routine

White alarm clock & white mug with saucer

This is a time where everyone’s daily routines and schedules are changing. As we are creatures of habit, adding structure to your day can help you stay in a consistent routine. This way, you’re spending time being productive or doing other activities when you might otherwise be leaving yourself too much time to think about what else is going on, thus putting a strain on your mental health.

Here are some great ways to add structure to your day:

  • Stay hydrated and eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Exercise regularly. 
    • Schedule time to take a walk or exercise at home. Silver Sneakers offers many great exercise resources.
  • Get plenty of sleep.  Poor sleep can intensify stress and make it more difficult to cope with stressors. 
  • Schedule time throughout the day for stretching or relaxation. One quick and easy relaxation technique is called Box Breathing. Box Breathing is helpful to reduce physical stress symptoms in the body.  

Box Breathing Exercise for Seniors 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Keeping your hands relaxed in your lap with your palms facing up, focus on your posture. You should be sitting up straight. This will help you take deep breaths.
    • Begin by slowly exhaling all of your air out.
    • Then, gently inhale through your nose to a slow count of 4.
    • Hold at the top of the breath for a count of 4.
    • Then gently exhale through your mouth for a count of 4.
    • At the bottom of the breath, pause and hold for the count of 4.

Tip #4:  Be aware of your thoughts

The hand of a person meditating

This tip can sometimes be a little confusing. However, understanding and being aware of your thoughts can be important in managing mental health. Having thoughts of anxiety, worry or fear are completely natural during this time. However, you do not have to let your thoughts control you, especially when it comes to something beyond our control such as a worldwide pandemic like COVID-19.

Understand that these thoughts proceed from you, but they do not define you. Your thoughts are within your control, and your thoughts do not translate to the truth. When we feel this way, there are a few things we can do to stay aware and conscious of our thoughts. It can be easy to let our minds run wild, but ultimately you have the power to control what you do and don’t think about. 

Mindfulness Exercise for Seniors

For example, say to yourself, “Right now, I am ok. I am doing what I can. I, like everyone else, have to cope with what is happening, and I can make it through this difficult time.”  While there are many factors that are not in our control during this pandemic, it is important to maintain control in areas where you are able to.  

In this article, we’ve gone over some of the best tips on how to survive physical distancing. If you maintain social connections, limit your exposure to media coverage, incorporate a routine, and stay aware of your thoughts. These strategies can help reduce your stress levels during distancing. At Iora Primary Care, we believe that healthcare means addressing a person’s whole health, both physical and mental health. 

Now that we’ve covered how to survive physical distancing, learn more about how to maintain your health with additional COVID-19 related content such as How to Ease Anxiety and 10 Healthy Sleep Habits.