Social distancing can help keep you healthy, but it also might drive you a little crazy. 

Most people think about what they can’t do in social distancing. In this post I’m going to be talking about all the things you CAN do (and maybe even learn something) during social isolation.

What is Social Distancing?

The official definition: Yes, it’s in the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary

Social distancing, n. 

“The practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people”

The bottom line: Basically, we use it to reduce the spread of highly contagious diseases. Social distancing includes:

  • Shutting down schools
  • Closing restaurants
  • Canceling flights 
  • Closing recreational facilities, gyms, and public areas
  • Social isolation
  • …basically canceling everything with people.

In the wake of recent crises, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked people to engage in social distancing to avoid the spread of infection.

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Social Distancing Policy

What the officials say: According to the social distancing policy from the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, use the following tips for maximum social distancing effectiveness!

  • “Avoid going to places where 25 or more people may gather
  • Go places where you can maintain at least six feet of distance from other people
  • Keep in mind your personal risk: If you’re 60 years old and up or have a compromised immune system, you should stay home as much as possible.”

The bottom line: Social distancing is about staying away from other people.

Okay! Simple enough, right? 

Want to get more specific? Here are some easy do’s and don’ts of social distancing.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Distancing

DO:

  • Reduce physical contact with your coworkers/friends/acquaintances/___.
  • Go outside! Just make sure to minimize interactions with other people.
  • Call or text your friends! Nowadays, it’s easy to go virtual!

DON’T:

  • Go to concerts, movie theaters, or shopping malls
  • Take a leap-year off to travel
  • Greet others with a handshake or hug
  • Take prepping to the extreme and isolate yourself from EVERYONE

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Is Social Distancing Worth It

The short answer: Yes! 

In fact, this isn’t the first time we’re seeing social distancing

In 1918, when the Spanish flu broke out that would eventually claim as many as 100 million lives globally, the city of St. Louis was smart enough to implement social distancing procedures:

  • They closed schools, playgrounds, libraries, courtrooms, and churches
  • Public gatherings of more than 20 people were banned

The result? 

The death rate from the flu was less than half of those in Philadelphia, which completely ignored social distancing policies!

The same study did a comparison of 17 different cities in America…

And they found the exact same results. The cities that implemented social distancing had less transmission rates and deaths!

The bottom line: It’s probably best to stay at home. Even Arnold Schwarzenneger is practicing social isolation!

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How to Survive Social Distancing 101

Social Distancing 101

My advice for approaching social distancing is to think about how much social time you need. Pick your group! Which category do you belong to?

Introverts: For introverts this news might be a welcome relief.

Brenna Noble's Instagram post about social distancing

Ambiverts: For ambiverts this news might be worrisome…but don’t we have some reading to catch up on?

Extroverts: For extroverts this news sounds like the end of the world.

Have no fear! Here are some ways to combat loneliness and take advantage of this time. 

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Productivity 101

Productivity 101

Part of passing Social Distancing 101 is to be productive!

What have you been meaning to do? What do you never have time for? What would set you up for success once social distancing is over. Now is your chance!

Organize Your Photos…and Send Some to Loved Ones

Vanessa's picture of herself when she was young, holding a hair dryer
Me circa 1989

There is nothing like going through old photos. It’s nostalgic, it’s sweet and it can be inspiring. 

  • Organize your old photos into albums
  • Print some for your home
  • Select a few to turn into postcards
  • Print and send them to old friends and family members

We all need a positive note right now! I just sent this one to my Mom…

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Create Playlists

Another really fun project is creating playlists for different parts of your life! 

I highly recommend creating work playlists. Research has shown that playlists can up your productivity (more on that here). They have found there are three kinds of motivational music:

  • Pre-task music: This is music that gets you in the right mindset before the task at hand.
  • During-task music: This is music you listen to while you are working to stay on track and enhance performance.
  • Post-task music: This is music to help you wind down, recover, and cool down after an intense task.

Create a playlist for each!

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Spring Clean

What have you been meaning to clean out? It is spring after all! It cannot hurt to do some big cleanouts and create some space in your life. 

And we even have some clean science to back it up!

Now’s the BEST time to become more productive while practicing social distancing at home!

How do you clean your home?

Start simple! Try tackling one room at a time:

  • Your closet (try Marie Kondo’s technique the Magic Art of Tidying Up)
  • Your garage
  • Your pantry (organize all those dry goods and cook some of them before they expire!)
  • Your bedside drawers (if you need a smaller project)
  • The attic or basement
  • Under the bed (helps with allergies too)

You never know what old book, toy, or photo album you might find! Plus a little elbow grease is great for germ killing.

And that doesn’t mean you have to stop at cleaning your home— why not tidy up your computer or phone’s hardware space as well? You can try:

  • Organizing your desktop
  • Getting rid of old programs and apps you don’t use
  • Backing up and deleting old photos you don’t need
  • Resetting your computer (just make sure to make a backup!)

Bonus tip: Got some valuable stuff? Try selling it online on sites like eBay or Amazon! As they say, one man’s (or woman’s) trash… 

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Do Some Science-Based Goal Setting

Want to know the quickest, easiest way to achieve your goals? 

Something you can do RIGHT NOW?

Write down your goals!

Research from the Dominican University of California proved that just writing down goals increases the chances of you achieving them by 42 percent!

I LOVE doing an annual goal-setting session. 

Having trouble finding out your goals? I have a science that you can follow that will help you dig deep into what you want out of the next few years—and help you get it! 

Really, it all starts with my goal wheel. 

Start by ranking each area from:

1 (extremely dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied)

This gives you a snapshot of your life—the fuller the circle, the better. Then pick a few things you could work on to get your numbers higher.

A goal wheel composed of business, friends, family, personal passions, spiritual, and health goals

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Grab a Pen and Paper

If you’re socially isolated and not talking to people face-to-face so much… why not engage in dialogue with yourself through journaling?

One 2017 study in the Academy of Management Journal followed 63 recently unemployed professionals for eight months:

  • One group was told to start writing expressively.
  • The other control group did not.

The striking results?

52% of those who wrote found full-time employment, compared to only 19% in the control group!

Why did they find employment?

The participants who wrote down their difficulties in finding a new job were able to process their emotions better. That allowed them to have better motivation and a more positive attitude!

I love to keep a journal near my bedside every night!  Before I go to bed, I jot down the most important parts of my day:

  • What I’m grateful for
  • What I accomplished that day
  • Any major (and minor) events that stood out to me
  • What I want to accomplish the next day

Here are some REALLY cool journals if you’re high in conscientiousness and want a more structured way to write:

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Reconnecting 101

Reconnecting 101

Just because you can’t be with people, doesn’t mean you can’t connect with people. And here’s why it’s important to stay connected:

  • One study found that a lack of social connections is worse than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure! 
  • A German study showed that having a goal that involved spending time with others resulted in increased happiness, whereas focusing on individual goals did not.

Here are some ways to keep your connections fresh!

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Spruce Up Your LinkedIn

Now is the time to check-in with your digital network. Reconnect your contacts to your LinkedIn profile and reach out to people you have been meaning to connect with, even amidst your social isolation!

If you want to reconnect with people AND be productive, then try my 15 tips for your LinkedIn profile and try to do one each day.

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Video Call 3 Old Friends

Who do you need to spend more time talking to? 

  • Your old roommate?
  • Your best friend from camp? 
  • Your favorite cousin? 

Video call them! You can even group call your friends and hang out like you used to… just virtually! 

Feel like getting a little creative? Why not schedule an online class to take together, like virtual paint night? (more on that in Idea #18)

Or, you can even call them on the phone if you don’t feel like getting dressed!

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Help a Stranger

Did you know you can volunteer online? That’s right, you don’t even have to go out and meet people to volunteer—  you can do it all in the comfort of your pajamas at home!

Volunteering is SO good for the mind, body, and spirit! The International Journal of Epidemiology did a study in 2017:

  • They studied 308,733 married couples over the age of 25 for 33 months
  • The amazing results? The people who volunteered had a lower mortality rate!

And what’s even more fascinating is that these results were irrespective of any health conditions the participants had— in other words, there’s almost a direct effect of volunteering on living longer!

So why not help people AND live longer while social distancing?

Here are some great places you can volunteer online:

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Start a Virtual Mastermind

I love masterminding–I actually call it an awesome club.

And what is this awesome club, exactly? Napoleon Hill defines masterminding in his book, The Law of Success In Sixteen Lessons, as… 

“The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.”

A mastermind group helps like-minded professionals:

  • Get peer support and combat loneliness
  • Receive feedback on projects
  • Expand social/professional networks
  • Brainstorm new ideas (two minds are almost always better than one!)
  • Learn new skills
  • Create accountability

Masterminds are typically two things: goal-oriented and success-driven. To succeed, you have to find your perfect mastermind! Which then begs the question…

How do I join a mastermind group?

Luckily, the internet is HUGE, and you can use sites like Facebook or Meetup.com to find a virtual mastermind of your own.

What’s the alternative?

You don’t have to find one! You can easily create a mastermind of your own (and easily claim it as (your name here)’s Mastermind group, too!)

Here’s the three things you need for an awesome mastermind:

Key components of a mastermind which is made of go-getters, niche, and rules
  • Find your niche. What is your mastermind going to be about? Achieving your business goals? Acing school exams? Becoming a charisma BOSS? Pick your niche for your mastermind!
  • Find your go-getters. Think of the smartest, hardest-working people you know. These are the people who #hustle. The peeps who set their alarms, always have empty cups with coffee stains on their desk, and know their stuff.
  • Follow the rules. How many times will you meet? How long? I aim for at least twice a month for at least 60 minutes.

Found your mastermind? Then get a virtual call on the books! Here are the questions we ask in my mastermind groups:

  • What has been your biggest success this month?
  • What is your biggest challenge this month?
  • How can we support each other right now?

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Skills 101

Skills 101

Social distancing is also a great time to learn some skills! When you learn alone, you can take advantage of:

  • Fewer distractions so you can focus more on ONE thing (studies show that multitasking causes you to lose a TON of time!)
  • Learning on your own schedule

How do you learn skills alone?

You can do things like build your resumé… expand your mind… get inspired! 

Here are some great learning ideas.

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Watch a Documentary on Something You Know NOTHING About

Whoever said that watching TV is all bad for you? A 2019 survey of 1,027 Americans found that:

  • 70% of respondents shared something they learned in the documentary with others.
  • 44% of respondents said watching documentaries have inspired change in their lives.

I have been working my way through this amazing list of Top 48 Documentaries on Netflix and have learned so much! My favorites:

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Finish that Book…or Start a New One

You know that book you have been meaning to finish? Now is the time to have “reading hour” in your house. Research by The Reading Agency charity even shows that reading has been demonstrated to “”significantly reduce feelings of loneliness!” 

Take that, social isolation!

There’s absolutely no better time to read a good book! My favorite is to brew a big mug of tea, curl up on the couch, and dive in. 

Psst… There are TONS of ways you can get books for free digitally! Try OverDrive or your local interlibrary loan system.

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Take a Free Course

This is the BEST time to be learning online. There are so many free resources out there. 

Pick a topic you want to become more versed in and go! We have tons of free webinars you can choose from: 

And there are so many more! Here are some other suggestions:

  • EdX: Has free courses from Harvard—talk about a good way to use at-home rime!
  • LinkedIn Learning: I have 3 courses on there—and if your company has a subscription, you can watch for free.
  • Udemy: I love Udemy and have a free course on there as well. Search their library of free courses.

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Learn How to Be Conversational in a New Language

It’s hard to learn a new language. 

Believe me, I know. I have dabbled in Spanish, French, and Mandarin.

Learning a new language is NOT easy, especially when you are socially distancing yourself from others

The problem: The phrase, “Learning a new language” is too intimidating. Ain’t nobody got time for that! 

Instead: Try to set a more realistic goal— “How to be conversational in a new language” sounds MUCH better!

According to OptiLingo:

  • People who know 250 to 500 words are beginners. 
  • People who know 1,000 to 3,000 words can carry on everyday conversations.
  • People who know 4,000 to 10,000 words are advanced language users.
  • People who know more than 10,000 words are considered fluent.

This means, If you learn just 18 words per day…You will be a beginner in a language after a 14 day quarantine is over! 

If you learn 30 words per day… You are well on your way to conversational. 

Here are the top 5 free language learning apps.

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Use Your Body

Do you sometimes feel like you’re trapped at home with nowhere to go?

You just feel restless, and tired, and your body feels heavy…

The one key I found to get out of this slump is to exercise!

In an analysis of 70 studies published in Psychological Bulletin, researchers found that more than 90% of studies showed the same results:

  • People who exercised regularly improved their levels of fatigue compared to those who did not exercise.

Throughout the years, I’ve had:

  • Periods of time where I was able to get into an exercise rhythm, and…
  • Times where the most exercise I felt like getting was walking to my bed sheets.

And when I can get into a fabulous exercise routine (I LOVE Zumba!), I feel MUCH more livelier and have more energy!

Try these amazing ways to exercise during your period of social isolation:

  • Learn to dance with step-by-step videos
  • Try a new at-home bodyweight routine
  • Take an online yoga/Tai Chi/meditation class

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Creativity 101

Creativity 101

This is the last part of Social Distancing 101! Time to stir your creative juices! 

Creativity is an essential skill… 

So do NOT let it wither in times of social distancing! 

Here is an interview I did with Chase Jarvis about finding your creative calling:

Try these creative ideas for you to do while at home…

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Sketchboarding Your Favorite TED Talk

Have you ever heard about sketchboarding? I did an interview with Sarah Moyle who helped me understand what it is.

What is sketchboarding? 

Sketchboarding is a way to visualize a concept through drawings or graphics. Often using a whiteboard or sketchpad, designers will explain complex concepts with simple drawings.

Action Step: Take your favorite TED Talk or concept and try to sketchboard it out! 

I have a secret wish here…no one has ever sketchboarded my TED Talk and I am secretly hoping someone will! 

Give it a try = )

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Create a Vision Board

Sometimes being at home and not getting enough contact from the people you love can be depressing. 

Want to know one of my FAVORITE ways to become a bit more optimistic?

Create a vision board!

What is a vision board?

A vision board, or a dream board, is a collage made of:

  • Images, 
  • Pictures, 
  • Words, and 
  • Affirmations

A vision board is a reflection of your dreams, hopes, and desires. It is designed to inspire and motivate you whenever you see it!

A study by TD Bank surveyed more than 1,100 people and 500 small business owners. 

Can you guess what happened to the confidence levels of those who drew vision boards?

  1. Their confidence decreased
  2. Confidence level rose slightly
  3. Confidence levels grew 2x

If you guessed that their confidence levels were twice as high as those who didn’t visualize their goals.. 

You’re correct!

People believe in pictures— 67% of them said that pictures of their goals would improve the odds they will achieve them! If you’re new to vision boarding, you may be wondering…

How do I make a vision board?

It’s easier than you think! Since there’s no real set rules, all you need is:

  • A poster board or paper
  • Scissors and glue
  • Photos, pictures, and quotes from magazines/newspapers/books/___.
  • Pens, markers, sparkles, anything else you want! Be creative!

But the real secret of creating an amazing vision board is…

Focus on feelings, not on content!

It doesn’t matter what’s on your board, as long as it makes YOU feel great! Here are a few questions I use for myself when I am vision boarding—or as I like to call it— dreamstorming.

  • What do you want your ideal life to look like?
  • What do you want MORE of in your life?
  • What do you want LESS of in your life?

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Take a Virtual Tour

Did you know that many museums offer virtual museum tours? 

  • You can take a virtual walk around the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim Museum 
  • You can also try perusing through Google Arts & Culture which has a collection of virtual walkthroughs for dozens of international museums, from Paris to New Delhi.

I love to do this with my partner or friends and ask them which ones they would like for each room of their house. It’s a fun game, and you learn a lot about the tastes of people in your life!

Not a fan of museums? There are other awesome experiences you can check out online, too!

Check out a comprehensive list of virtual tours here.

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Unleash Your Inner Artist

Ever since I was kid, I wouldn’t call myself the best artist…

But that never stopped me from trying!

Why not try some art? At least when you’re in social isolation, you can still express yourself!

Try some of these amazingly creative ideas!

  • Paint! Have you ever tried an online virtual painting class? Try Yaymaker’s Virtual Paint Nite! I also love watching Bob Ross paint! As Bob Ross says, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.” You can find his videos on YouTube!
  • Sew! Knit your loved ones a nice little scart or a pair of socks!
  • Calligraphy! Ever wanted to transform your handwriting? Patricia Lovett has posted tons of free clips on how to write in calligraphy style. 
  • Draw! Instagram user carsonellis is hosting a daily “Quarantine Art Club Assignment” for those stuck at home! Drawabox also has more structured lessons to become amazing!
  • Origami! Did you know Origami comes from the Japanese words oru (to fold) and kami (paper)? Check out Origami.me’s list of origami diagrams!
  • Haiku Writing! Why not try your hand at poetry? The Writing Cooperative has an amazing guide on how!

Bonus: Feeling like a star? Why not open an Etsy store and sell your crafty creations online?

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Give Yourself a Creative Makeover

Stuck at home? That doesn’t mean you can’t look absolutely fabulous!

Try these for a new look:

  • New outfit: If you’ve got a ton of old clothes lying around from your spring cleaning (see Idea #3), why not make a new outfit? You can create something unique, or even start a new 2020 trend!
  • 10-step Korean skincare routine: Cleansers, exfoliators, toners, essences, sheet masks, eye cream, OH MY! Try this during your quarantine, and come out a beauty queen (or king!).
  • New haircut: What better time than during your social distancing? You can even dye it a new color—if you don’t like it, nobody’s looking anyway!

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Get Creative with Food

Have you been dying to learn how to cook? Now is your time! Food is one of the best ways to feed your creative soul–get it? Feed? Here are some ideas:

Bonus: A close sister to getting creative with food is to try gardening! Now is the time to start that kitchen garden or tea garden.

If you have made it this far…

Congratulations! 

You have just graduated Social Distancing 101! You now have the knowledge to survive social distancing.

More importantly…

See this time as an opportunity to reflect…

Slow down… 

And appreciate your health, your family and your time. 

Use it wisely!

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

1 reply on “Social Distancing: 20 Ideas for How to Stay Sane”

  1. Trish

    Fantastic list. Thanks! I also found an online film club that meets weekly on Zoom, I’m considering joining a knit-along group if I can scrounge up some yarn, and many Toastmasters chapters have moved online too for the time being (or longer).

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