This week we have quickly found ourselves in a strange new reality. To keep ourselves and those around us healthy, we are being asked to practice “social distancing” … to stay home, avoid social groups. Both local and national public health authorities have confirmed that this, along with frequent handwashing, is crucial to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

What a difficult challenge for us as a species. Connecting is basically what we are built for. It is what we do…in a thousand ways, every day. It is one of our most basic, fundamental needs …. the need to connect with each other. Despite that fundamental need, we are reminded, too often, that many people remain isolated.

Depression affects more than 16 million Americans every year and Anxiety affects more than 6 million ( Social distancing is an unfortunate prescription for a society that typically is wrought with stories of people who whose mental health already suffers from emotional and social isolation, including many who are not formally diagnosed.

There are some things we can do that will help us cope with this uncertain time in our world. We can use this time of social distancing in a way that boosts our mental health versus bringing it down. Dr. Giuseppe Raviola is the Director of Mental Health for the international non-profit group, Partners in Health. He has put together a very useful list of practices that we can use as a guide during this time to help us all maintain positive mental and emotional health and to feel less isolated. He suggests:

• Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing; use the many technology opportunities to connect with friends and family, such as Face Time, Skype, email and social media.

• Set clear routines and schedule if confined to home; yet, don’t go overboard with too much structure

• Exercise and physical activity, daily if possible

• Take the opportunity for learning and intellectual engagement - books, reading, limited internet

• Create positive family time, working to counter any negativity about the circumstances

• Have some alone time, outside if possible, but inside too; but remember, don’t isolate;

• Remember the things that you most enjoy doing, that you can do at home and find a way to do them;

• Limit exposure to TV and internet news; choose small periods to listen/read, then turn it off

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Bill Mory is a Texoma-based licensed therapist in private practice who is an active member of the local behavioral health network and a provider of workplace training on a variety of topics. Learn more at The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.