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How Do I Deal With Social Distancing? Blue Shield of California's Top Medical Official Has Some Suggestions

Staying isolated for weeks can 'easily lead to feeling isolated and stressed,' Dr. Terry Gilliland says

Editor's note: This article by Dr. Gilliland was adapted from an internal message to employees.

Several counties in California have been placed under a shelter-in-place order—and we'll probably see more in the coming weeks. While these recommendations are critical to flattening the curve of COVID-19 infections, we can't ignore the fact that these orders, along with the voluntary social distancing that we've already been doing, can easily lead to feeling isolated and stressed. Those feeling are compounded when we're anticipating the potential of several weeks with very little human contact. The irony of social distancing is that it's only successful if we do it together.

Terry Gilliland, M.D.

These efforts are incredibly important to protecting our physical health. It's also incredibly important that we take care of our mental health. Here are some suggestions for creating a positive mental framework during this time:

  • Start by asking yourself: How will I protect myself from feeling lonely or isolated, and stay healthy, productive and vibrant? Then go create that for yourself. 
  • Develop rituals and have a disciplined way of managing the day.
  • Schedule a start and end time, and if possible, use a separate part of your living space to work.
  • Take care of yourself – take a shower, get dressed even when it's not your usual work clothes.
  • Keep active during the day, being sure to get up and move around. Take a break to eat a snack, eat lunch and touch base with loved ones.
  • Take the time to work out in some fashion to get your heart rate up – do jumping jacks or jump rope, even if it's only for 15 minutes a day.
  • Prioritize outdoor time – take a conference call outside, take a walk in your neighborhood, play with your kids in the yard. Do something outside every day.
  • Use technology to connect – video chat with family, friends and colleagues. Host virtual meetups like book clubs, playing games or happy hours.
  • Take advantage of extra time to do things we're often too busy to do, like read a book or write in a journal.
  • Catch up with a friend or family member on the phone. Connecting with people—even just with audio—can help you feel connected. Talking through your worries and concerns can help you sort through them in a productive way.
  • Build meditation into your day. Use any one of the variety of meditation apps available. Pause to take 5-10 deep breaths per hour. It will help you with feeling grounded and can do wonders for anxiety.
  • Maintain visits with health professionals – if you have a regular visit with a mental health provider, continue to see them if you can. Shelter-in-place orders make exception for doctor's visits. Look into alternatives if for some reason you have to put these visits on hold. At Blue Shield of California, members and employees have access to virtual mental health services.

When we look back on this time, we'll remember how we responded and how we supported one another. I'm confident that we'll marvel at our resilience. Take care of each other.

To read more of our coverage of the coronavirus, click here.