Posted on March 29, 2020

Social Distancing in a Hyper Connected World


Cabin fever from staying home too long? Covid-19 has got us all scrambling for opportunities to stay connected or entertained, and rightfully so. Wherever you are in the world, I hope everyone is staying safe, staying positive and most importantly staying home! During this surreal time, I wanted to share expert views, insights and tips from Devika Mankani, a Licensed Psychologist at Fortes Education & The Hundred Wellness Centre in Dubai, UAE on how to possibly better navigate the Covid-19 outbreak.

Devika Mankani, Licensed Psychologist at Fortes Education & The Hundred Wellness Centre

As a Psychologist and Mind-Body Practitioner, I have 17 years of studying the mind and helping clients adapt their mindset to challenging situations. With the rise of Covid-19 cases and governments all over the planet asking citizens to stay home, many people will be facing unprecedented challenges. One such challenge is the chronic loneliness that can stem from self-quarantine. Studies have reported that isolation and chronic loneliness poses mortality risks equivalent to smoking over 12 cigarettes a day. Despite community and government mandates for social distancing, individuals are actually coming together in so many meaningful ways.

Citizens around the world have reported connecting with friends and family with more presence and intention than the pre-Covid era. From video calling loved ones more frequently, to millennials asking elderly neighbours if they can help them with grocery shopping to prevent exposure to this daunting virus. From having no time to spring-clean for the past three years to sorting through every box and shelf in storage. From scheduling each hour while the children are out at school to scheduling their learning first hand, at home. The world is going through a massive shift in the experience of personal space and time. Even though a minority will respond to this crisis by duelling over commodities, an overwhelming majority is coming together to show kindness and compassion. With the uncertainty of this timeline filling the air, busy, over scheduled humans are coming home in more ways than one.

So, although ‘physical distancing’ is an invaluable safety measure at a time like this perhaps we need to find ways to practice what Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki calls ‘distant socialising’ to remain socially and emotionally connected.

In the absence of human connection the fall out from the Covid-19 virus could be a dire mental epidemic with no test and no vaccine to frame the destruction it could cause.

My current recommendations for this sudden disorder are simple:

(1) Find Perspective
Millions of people have lost their jobs, livelihood, investments, savings. But more important than crumbling careers and material things is that millions will lose a loved one to Covid-19. Countless people will be affected by this disease so it’s important to keep focused on the things that truly matter. Count your blessings and if you find it helpful, remind yourself that this is a global crisis and we are all facing the same challenges.

(2) Remember to Connect 
Connect with at least three people you love everyday. Our brains and hearts are wired for human interaction. Remember this isolation is temporary. Please reach out to a mental health professional if you are having a hard time processing some of the changes around you right now. Many practitioners are offering sessions over the telephone at this time.

(3) Get Moving

Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity everyday (be creative, it will probably have to happen at home) and try to add something new every few days. Movement and novelty are essential to our ability to create a better state of mind. Numerous studies have shown that exercise boosts immunity and increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s reaction to stress. So go ahead and get moving!

(4) Find Opportunities to Help
In times of crisis we need to know we are not forgotten. It’s not always the event that causes trauma but the circumstances around that help us heal. And guess what! When we help others our brains release oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine which are all ‘happy chemicals’. We call this the ‘helpers high’. You won’t have to look too far to find someone who needs you today so they can find some hope for tomorrow.

(5) Limit Your Exposure to the News
This is to protect you from constantly focusing on the trauma and difficulty. We all need to find balance in all of this. It’s good to stay up to date but streaming the news all day long can envelope you in stress that can be very hard to shake off. Stress changes our biology, protect yourself to preserve your psychological and physical well-being.

(6) Nurture Your Gratitude
Within the frustration, fear and anxiety that some of us may be feeling right now the shift to a state of gratitude inoculates us from getting stuck with these feelings. Staying home has brought about a new sense of gratitude for many of the things we might have taken for granted.

I hope you found Devika Mankani’s insights above useful. On a slightly separate note, as most of my readers are also passionate travellers and foodies – I think this is the perfect time to start experimenting in the kitchen. Many people find baking or cooking very therapeutic and it will help take your mind off some of the bigger issues outside of your control. I will be sharing some easy recipes soon on Instagram Stories on @voyageurchic and @invskitchen – so please be sure to look out for them.

Remember, even though we can’t travel right now, there is no reason you can’t continue travel dreaming of your next holiday destination. Use this time to save some of your favourite travel inspiration from my IG to a gallery so you have a bank of content to refer to when it comes planning your next exciting getaway!

Stay safe and stay home. Together, we will get through this.

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