We have been social distancing for nearly 2 months now. And while there are now talks of a slow plan towards reopening, there is still no clear end in sight for the implementation of strategies to manage COVID-19. Some of you may have mastered your tools for managing isolation, but some are still looking for ways to adapt our healthy coping routines to these new restrictions. The social distancing protocol has meant that social gathering places are closed, school’s out, and there is no access to fitness centres. Add to these barriers the grief of the recent tragedies in Nova Scotia, and some of us are lacking the energy and focus to stay motivated with our goals. But keeping up with our friends and our goals is perhaps more important now than ever before. Here are four simple (and free!) ways that will help you find your new groove by harnessing the power of your smart devices and internet connection
1. Throw a party on Zoom, Skype, Houseparty, or your preferred social app
Isolation is tough. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Keep in touch with friends and loved ones like you normally would through your chosen video-chat platforms. If you’re used to going to events, or hanging out with friend, get creative with your substitutes. Gamers have long been in the know of multiplayer virtual games, and now might be a good time for you to see what all the fuss is about. Or you can keep it old school by doing virtual group activities like a board game night or have a game of cards. If you want to be more active, try a group yoga session. Or simply enjoy the Netflix Party feature to watch and talk about shows and movies together. Social engagement has been shown in many research studies to help with mental wellbeing, regardless of the platform we use. So whether you pick up the phone or opt for a video platform, hearing a friendly and familiar voice will go a long way. Bonus points for you if you donate the use of a smart device to someone who is without at this time. This can be a very isolating time for people without the means or access to this technology or these apps.
2. Take a free online course in well-being.
One of the most popular courses offered by Yale University is now free! It has a number of assignments to complete over the course of several weeks that will help keep you mentally engaged throughout the day, as well as provide evidence-based strategies to apply to your life. Visit Coursera to enroll in the “Science of Well Being” course. Do it today, as this offer may only be available for a limited time.
3. Hop on Instagram/YouTube and follow a local fitness studio providing free programming.
If exercise is already a big part of your lifestyle, you don’t have to miss out on your workouts. Many people in the fitness community are offering free workout programming in their Instagram stories, as well as doing live streams/videos of free classes that require minimal to no gym equipment. And there are so many varieties of programs available, for people of all levels of fitness and commitment. Research shows that regular physical activity is important to help managing mental wellbeing. Why not take the stress out of figuring out your own programming and follow along. Bonus points if you do it while video-chatting with friends!
4. Use “freemium” tracking apps on your smartphone.
Some people are feeling capable of using their newfound downtime to start new habits, or fortify old ones. Whether it is meditation, drinking water, walking, or other forms of physical activity, tracking apps are great as they not only help you gauge your progress, they also usually provide some sort of guidance and feedback on an activity or goal. Pick something that you would like to incrementally improve and use the app to track your progress each day. Having specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive (SMART) goals helps improve chances of achieving personal benchmarks. If it is a brand new addition to your routine, research shows it is best to work on developing consistency in your routine through small incremental change tends to be more stable than drastic overhauls of a person’s life. I like to think of it in terms of 1% better each day vs. 365% better right now.
Remember, we are going through a global crisis. Be gentle with yourself. There is no pressure to reinvent yourself! But hopefully these outlets give you some support in getting through this, one day, one step, one chat at a time.
Written By- Dawson Wambolt, Registered Psychologist