Spending almost two years in Japan has taught me a lot about social distance. While I love my life here, and would not trade it for life in any other place, moving halfway across the world is not without its challenges.
Among them, physical separation from my family and my friends in the U.S. I’ve missed being able to see the people I love when I want to see them, but adjusting to the change has also helped me develop some new skills that are proving useful in this time of social distancing.
Here are some of the things I’m doing to bridge the physical gaps and the isolation that comes from “social distancing” to help flatten the coronavirus curve:
1. Staying in touch through apps and social media.
Many apps (Line, WhatsApp, Slack) offer free voice chat as well as text, and some (Zoom, Line, FaceTime) offer video chat as well. When you can’t see friends and loved ones face to face, VOIP is the next best thing, and helps close the distance without requiring a plane ticket or (in the case of coronavirus-inspired social distancing) any physical risk.
2. Sending encouragement through social media.
It’s easy to let social media become a mindless scroll or a place to vent. But mindful use of those same platforms can transform them into a place of communal strength.
Every day, I try to post at least one encouraging message and image on my own feed, and to comment in a positive, encouraging way on at least three posts (and usually more) in my friends and contacts’ timelines also Positive interaction boosts your own mood, and lifts other people, too. Be the encourager other people need. It will help you just as much.
3. Take some virtual trips to sites around the world.
Many museums, art galleries, zoos, and other places are posting virtual tours and videos online, to help people experience the world during isolation. Many popular destinations around the world also have photo galleries and websites with great information and images that are fun to read and see.
Those resources especially helpful now, with coronavirus-induced social distancing in effect, but it’s something to remember in the future too, should you need to be isolated or have family members who can’t get out easily later on.
When I find myself feeling stressed or lonely, I dive into a new book–either print or in ebook format. Reading transports me to another time and place, and while I’m reading, I’m not missing the people I cannot see right now.
A note on this: it’s OK not to finish a book if it isn’t working to transport you. Put it down and pick something else that appeals to your mind right now. We go through seasons in our reading preferences, so if SciFi is your usual go-to, but it’s not helping you today, try a historical novel, a mystery, a romance, a biography, or even a middle grade humorous novel–something new may be just what you need to get your mind off things.
5. Make plans for the future.
Can’t visit your loved ones now? Make a list of the things you want to do with them when you can get together again. Find a place you’d like to travel and plan an itinerary. When I was in chemotherapy two years ago, I spent many hours encouraging myself by reading the itinerary for my then-upcoming trip to Hokkaido with Hokkaido Nature Tours. The trip itself was almost a year away at that point in time, but the anticipation helped get me through some very dark and lonely days.
6. Make Art
I study shodō – traditional Japanese calligraphy – as well as writing novels. Both of these are helpful when it comes to fighting loneliness–and other arts are, too. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re “talented” or interested in making art for public view. Find something artistic that fills your soul with peace and joy, and do it regularly. Your mind and your spirit will be happier, and healthier, for the experience.
Distance from the ones we love is never a happy thing, but sometimes it is necessary for the greater good. I hope these tips help you–and I’d love to hear what you are doing to pass the socially-distant days in the comment section!