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Keep yourself occupied to overcome social seclusion

By Rebecca Weber
CEO of Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC]

Everyone enjoys a day off every once in a while. Most kids enjoy those snow days when they wake up in the morning to find that an overnight snowfall prevents them from going to school that day. Adults, too, might look  forward to a not-so-sick day that gives them a chance to work from home in their pajamas. But none of us were prepared for the isolation and loneliness of “sheltering in place” during the coronavirus crisis. The experts tell us that this new norm can cause psychological and physical harm if we don’t take measures to stimulate our minds and invigorate our bodies. We need to stay in touch with ourselves and with the world.

Social seclusion is particularly dangerous for the elderly, especially for seniors who live alone. In normal times they can ward off depression by meeting up occasionally with friends and neighbors or by hanging out at their gyms or senior centers. So, how can they — and the rest of us — stay sane in a world that has gone mad.The first thing to do is to take matters into your own hands by vowing not to give in to a notion that you are in solitary confinement. Be aware that there are things you can do to engage your mind and to keep yourself active.

For example, staying connected with friends and family using technology is not just for the twenty-somethings among us. Even the orneriest of old-timers among us can learn to use picture phones, better known as FaceTime, via an Apple cell phone or Google Duo if you prefer an android based mobile device. It’s just like making an old fashioned telephone call except it allows you to look — eye-to-eye — at the person with whom you are talking.

The idea is to distract yourself. This is no time to feel sorry for yourself. For example, make a to-do list of entertaining and engaging activities such as taking walks around the block. You don’t have to shake hands with passersby with whom you might be connected; simply give him or her a hearty smile and a wave. And, remember, just because you need to distance yourself, there’s no need to shout to one another across six feet of space to participate in a conversation.

Meanwhile, limit the amount of time you spend watching news reports about the pandemic on your TV. Keep yourself informed, by all means. But, don’t let the “bad news” that is being reported get to you. And, if there ever was a time for getting physical, it is now. Stay active. If you can’t get out for a walk, at least establish a routine of in-home activities that will keep your blood flowing and your mind off of bad news. Set for yourself a list of daily chores around the house, such as cleaning up the place and spending time doing indoor exercises such as sit-ups and pushups.

Finally, if you are going to use your computer to keep abreast of developments related to the coronavirus outbreak — focus on the progress that is being made on the task of dealing with the disease. It can be quite encouraging. Better yet, there are a plethora of uplifting and downright humorous videos related to the disease available via the Internet. Google or search the Web for “funny coronavirus videos.”

Remember, laughter is the best medicine. My personal favorite is a video on YouTube that is attributed to one Frank Vaccariello. It chronicles the very amusing ways that the characters in the TV series, MASH, dealt with the perils of infections. It is on www.youtube.com.