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How to not get depressed during Social Distancing

Being a twin, I wasn’t even brought into this world alone. Since pre-day one I’ve always had someone around me. I grew up in a big family, have worked in tiny theatres since high school, and joined the biggest sorority on campus, I have very little concept of being alone.

This is not an “I’m afraid to be alone with my thoughts” kind of thing, because I’ve always actually enjoy being alone… in public spaces. I love coffee shops, museums, parks, anywhere were I can just be around other people and have the sense that anything could happen. One of my favorite trips was when I went to Amsterdam by myself for a week and I go to the theatre by myself frequently.

Two years ago when I suddenly fired from my job, I took my own form of “social distancing” as a (not super healthy) coping mechanism and it had a detrimental effect on my mental health that took quite a long time to recover from. Now with the sudden forced social distancing, I felt the walls starting to close in before it had even started.

In the age of digital communication it can feel almost absurd to feel lonely, you have hundreds, if not thousands of people you could talk to from all over the world within minutes. Facebook groups, Twitch channels, Reddit threads, those are all great band-aids, but they don’t address that you no longer are making substantial memories with folks around you. As extroverts and story tellers, we thrive on that constant inspiration and stimulation that comes from being around other people and getting to know them on a deeper level.

What also comes in this age of digital communication is the sense that you always have to be doing something, creating something, out somewhere, with people, or experiencing life to the fullest in every moment, specifically in a city like Los Angeles. When that comes to a crashing halt, it can feel hard to feel like you are interesting enough for people to talk to.

So as we all buckle up for some quality alone time, here are some things I learned from my forced social hiatus.

Still act like you’re at work.

Working from home seems like you can just sit around in your sweats and pop open your laptop from your bed when ever you feel like.

Yes, that is an option, but it can become unhealthy after a while. We are creatures of habit, and working in bed or working in pajamas blurs the lines in your mind between “work mode” and “sleep mode.” If you are working from your bed, it no longer is subconsciously seen as your sanctuary from the outside world, it becomes your office. Not only can it be harder to focus, feel awake, and feel productive, it can also make it harder to fall asleep.

While not all of us have an at-home office, I would turn my dining room table into my “office” because it was the furthest spot in my house from my bedroom, and it was never a place I would try to “relax” at, like my couch or patio. I would also try and copy some of the aspects of my favorite coffee shop to make it feel like I wasn’t stuck at home, I used pretty mugs for my coffee, I opened the windows to let some light in, and I even found the Spotify playlist they used.

Take time to set up some healthy habits.

The hardest part about building new habits is breaking old routines, well for most of us right now our morning routines have just been shattered, but let’s try and keep them going so it is easier to transition back into work.

Now that you have a little extra time since you aren’t commuting anywhere, take that time to do something you normally say you “don’t have time for.” Like yoga, or reading, or doing your hair. It doesn’t have to change your whole routine, just replace the time you spent driving with something else.

My personal example is that I normally spend 9:15 to 10:00 driving to work.

My normal morning routine is nothing fancy, I wake up, get dressed, do my makeup, make some coffee, leave for work. Now instead of trying to wake up earlier to try and do yoga (which has not worked at all), I know have an extra 45 to 60 minutes in my morning.

My other options could be sleeping in later, or starting work from home earlier, but the goal is to try and keep routines as close to normal as I can so going back to work will be easier.

People are not going to notice if you stop showing up…. Right away.

During a really low point, I stopped talking to most of my closest friends. I was really depressed and just didn’t feel like reaching out to anyone. Then I was pretty devastated they didn’t immediately notice my absence from their lives. This was a completely unfair and unrealistic expectation, but again, that was my depression brain trying to convince me I was insignificant.

Secondly, they were already conditioned that they never had to reach out because I was always the friend that made the plans, started the conversations, took lead on girls night out, so it wasn’t a habit of theirs to check in on me, because they never had to before. This changed the way I viewed how I manage the relationships in my life, and while it was a great reflection of who my close group of friends were, it was a painful experience.

Now we are at a point where most folks around us are feeling stressed, scared, and unstable, even without mental health struggles. There is a solid chance there will be radio silence from a couple of your friends that are dealing with family members, travel bans, and cancelled events, so it is super important to not isolate yourself just because you can’t physically be there for someone.

My favorite person to talk to is my sister, but she currently works at a hospital 2,000 miles away from me. I can’t take it personally that she doesn’t answer when I call, because she is currently trying to save the world and also just as stressed and scared as I am. It’s a community effort, it’s on you to reach out if you need help, and it’s on you to reach out to folks you haven’t heard from for a while.

It’s okay to jump onto the bandwagon to stay connected.

Recently, I doing something I swore I would never do… I started watching reality TV.

It started as a one time thing, a few summers ago I had a fling with a season of Bachelor in Paradise. Someone I was dating was really into the show and a couple of my coworkers would talk about it, but when I quit the job and relationship I never thought about it again. Until… Love is Blind.

This show is an absolute train wreck, but when it was all over my twitter and instagram feed I couldn’t resist. Then I couldn’t help but joining in the conversation about how much of a disaster Jessica is. I immediately started having conversations with people I hadn’t talked to in years. Within two weeks of posting that I was being invited over to watch the Bachelor and am now in a group chat with about 12 other people I barely know.

And you know what? It’s actually really fun.

I spent years being super judgmental about folks who watch reality TV, (read: I was snobby) but now I get it. It is something to talk about, a reason to check in with each other, and just something that is not as fucking horrible to talk about like the economy or the government.

Lastly, Self-Care can be Scary

Self care is not always binging Netflix with a face mask, take this time to dig deep into some personal goals and fears. Avoiding these harder conversations with yourself won’t help you in the long term, even if this social distancing is only for a month.

Take this scary time to look some of your bigger fears in the face. Take a deep look at your financial and emotional health, because they can be more connected than most people think.

What are your bigger goals in life? Is this event causing them to change? How can you course correct to reach these new goals? Maybe you want more stability in your career, maybe you want to have a stronger sense of financial literacy, maybe you want to work less so you can travel more, or maybe it makes you realize you need to buckle down on your current career to be ready when everything revs up again. Take some time to ask yourself these questions, even if you don’t have answers right away.

While this is a challenging time, I personally feel extremely inspired because I have always known it’s my passion to help artists. This is pushing me to work past perfectionism because these resources need to get out there, even if they aren’t perfect, because people are looking for help, now.

However, it has also made me realize I eventually want to expand beyond Los Angeles, something I had never really thought of or considered before, while I am not about to quit my job and run off to another city, it is something new to consider for my long term goals.

There are no wrong answers here. This is a life-changing moment for all of us. Let’s just make sure we stay grounded and figure it out.


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