When I was 20, I shattered my knee, tearing my ACL, MCL, and meniscus, and putting myself on a years-long, winding road of 11 ligament tears, five surgeries and, ultimately, a lot of couch confinement.
“Would not recommend,” is the way I describe it in public settings. But because of our global pandemic, lately I’ve had a pep in my step.
You see, unbeknownst to me, I spent a decent chunk of the last decade perfecting social distancing. So, for those of you not normally stuck at home, here are eight ways to thrive while taking the steps necessary to protect our country:
1. Find a TV series to get into
Like, really into. You want emotional investment. You want drama and plot twists and hard-hitting situations. You want to be able to live through these people, since you won’t be doing much living yourself. Most importantly, you want a lot of seasons. I watched Homeland (terrorism, diplomacy, humanitarianism) after my first knee surgery and The Wire (drugs, racism, poverty, social policy) after my second, which might not be for you – that’s fine, you just need some issues.
Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, etc. That’s not to say you shouldn’t watch Friends, just don’t expect the respite it normally gives you. Laughter is a wonderful medicine, but won’t cure a lack of critical thinking.
2. Read a book
Similar to TV, but it’s on paper. You’d be shocked at libraries’ massive collections which can be checked out from your computer, and how many books are literally (we know, many libraries are closed) just on the internet. Here’s The Great Gatsby, a short, easy classic. Here’s all 1,000+ pages of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Nothing lets you enter a different world quite like a book, and with our world as is, that doesn’t sound so bad.
3. Embrace a home workout
Someone joked that the Peloton gal looks pretty good now, and that’s basically right. We don’t realize how active we are – walking though subway stations, going down the hall to use the bathroom, traversing steps outside our homes. It’s not only the endorphin release you lose from immobility, but also the psychological idea that you can function.
Even if not a regular gym-goer, to stay sane, find something: take the dog on a long walk, take yourself for a long walk, do some daily planking, use a gallon of milk for dumbbell rows – there’s a New York Times guide on exactly this. It might be that first step toward staying or getting (back) into shape!
4. Download a dating app
Contingent on being single, this is honestly the most important one (don’t laugh). And don’t worry, you don’t even have to go on any dates. Limiting human interaction doesn’t inherently mean you’ll feel worse about yourself, but trust me, you will. FOMO hits everyone at some point and I’ve found that, while seemingly counterintuitive, isolation actually breeds self-consciousness, wondering if there’s something wrong with you.
Enter a dating app. Someone will say yes to you, and that push notification offers a stark reminder that, hey, you’re alright. Even better if it’s one without swipes, meaning someone found you attractive enough to like or even comment on your profile. And what if you actually meet them one day, and it works out? How good a story would that be?!
5. Drink less soda
This one has nothing to do with social distancing, but few consumable items are as bad so you might as well use the time productively. Accordingly, if there’s a habit you’ve been meaning to change, go for it. Want to make more salads? Why not start now?
Thought about learning that second language? You’ve got the time. Cliché as it sounds, picking a goal can be fun and rewarding, offering a clear sense of accomplishment without much else going on.
6. Call your parents
Or grandparents. Or a college roommate across the country. But talk to someone. You can even do this from a selfish perspective, asking your mom how her day was if you don’t really care and are just anxious for a loving voice. Plus, with nobody actually too busy to get back to you right now, it’s a good experiment to find out who your real friends are.
7. Listen to the medical professionals
We as humans think we know how to navigate life. That’s…not as true as we’d like to believe. A few days after one surgery, I woke up feeling great and, despite warnings from the doctor and physical therapist to lay low, decided to attend a grad party. I got home feeling not-great, and felt awful the next three days. When I told my PT, she rolled her eyes and said, “Duh, why did you think that wouldn’t happen?”
Ideally you won’t get sick, and hopefully those of us who do won’t have serious symptoms, but taking that chance is stupid and unnecessary. These people spent years in school and decades learning relevant information for a reason. Let their guidance guide you.
8. Don't be an asshole
Ultimately, yes, you’ll ignore some advice, and yes, you’ll have to break social distancing parameters, whether getting groceries or mailing something. But don’t be selfish about it. Stay away from crowds, no hosting parties, recognize your at-risk surroundings. And when you do get frustrated over not being able to sit down for a drink – and you will, and that’s alright – remember the person pouring that drink who might lose their job, or the person who will have to cancel their wedding, or the person forced to postpone a funeral.
If someone can get through not being able to properly say goodbye to a loved one, you can hold it down on FaceTime for a little bit.
People will die, and others will get very sick, for no reason beyond ego, and it’s on all of us to minimize this reality as much as possible. And when someone messages you, “Hey what’s up” on that new app, what’s a better response than “Saving the world”?