COVID Convos is a series of original columns conceptualized to give you something else to think about as we manage the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, they will provide you with a different perspective about an issue related to the crisis…or a brief smile. Remember, with COVID-19: this too shall pass.
It’s taken me awhile to wrap my ahead around this whole social distancing thing. It’s not obstinance or stupidity on my part — my name’s not Donald Trump, after all — but rather a lifetime of extroversion that gave me such a jolt when I was told that, to help stop the spread of coronavirus, we all need to stay at home as much as possible, and stay at least six feet from other people when we venture out.
Stay at home? Six feet?? It may have well as been six miles. I’m a hugger. A touchy-feely hugger. And when I heard that, in California, we’re just two weeks into a social distancing practice that has been extended until at least the end of April and could last until late spring / early summer, I started to freak out.
Just to make sure you’re caught up, introverts derive their energy from solo activities and turning inward (so I’m told), whereas that kind of thing wears extroverts out. We get charged up via external, outward interactions. And for the most part, or at least for this extrovert, the crowd can’t get big enough!
I love my our introverts. God KNOWS I do. (Yes, I said that in my Harpo / The Color Purple voice), but I’m learning that some of them don’t really get this. In a sense, introverts have been practicing for Coronavirus Season for their entire lives.
Long before we called it “social distancing,” introverts have cherished their alone time and relished in weekends to themselves, curled up with Netflix or a very small group of friends or family. I’ve had the good fortune of marrying two introverts over the course of my life — I guess opposites really DO attract.
One of those introverts, my ex-wife, recently reminded me that her social life really hasn’t changed in this day of social distancing. While she’s working from home now during the day, her evenings and weekends have always been, largely, spent ensconced in her home. And while my husband is more of a social introvert, I have to drag him out of the house on weekends, when he’d prefer to be chilling in his favorite sweatpants in front of a Golden Girls marathon.
But me? I’m out, all of the time. I’ve been working part-time from home since the late 1990s and full time since 2013, and even that was a transition! I joined a gym more for the opportunities for social interaction than anything else. While my blood pressure, weight, and overall health have improved, by FAR I’d say the biggest benefit has been getting me out of the house and in front of a varied group of people every day. Since gyms were shuttered a couple of weeks ago, I’ve struggled to replace that outlet.
As we’ve all been increasing shut in as we manage COVID-19, I’ve developed a few strategies to help my extroverted brethren. Feel free to steal the ones that help and toss the ones that sound crazy.
1. Limit your television consumption. As an extrovert, I know how tempting to just leave CNN on, just so you have another voice to listen to and the illusion that you’re having a conversation. However, the content and tone of today’s news necessitates small-dose consumption. Get the updates and move on.
2. Get outside as much as you can, for a walk or a bike ride. I’ve been taking a long walk (up to an hour) every morning Monday-Friday. In addition to your overall health, you really have to feed the need to engage with the outside world, while maintaining a six foot distance from others.
3. Lean into technology — FaceTime, texting, and social media — to help you engage and keep in contact with others. I’ve read a few articles that have compared COVID-19 to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919. While there are some similarities, I can’t imagine how hard social distancing was without technology. I’ve been checking in with relatives and close friends a few times a week. Engagements like that don’t make up for the real, face-to-face deal, but they will help — both them and you. But a word of caution: my kids avoid FaceTime like…the coronavirus.
4. Use music to boost your mood. I’ve started an Apple Music playlist called COVID-19 Be Damned, including some inspirational classics like Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” interspersed with songs that give a wink to our current crisis. Examples of the latter include Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” (“I’ll take two steps forward, two steps back…”), Diana Ross’ “It’s My House,” Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” Natalie Cole’s “I’m Catching Hell (Living Here Alone), Eartha Kitt’s “Fever,” Michael Jackson’s “Come Together,” and Whitney Houston’s “Just The Lonely Talking Again.” Those tunes make smile when I hear them in the contest of a potential fatal virus that is dictating our social isolation and, on the surface, presents very little to smile about. Look for me on Apple Music if you want to cut to the chase and listen to my playlist — it’s curated daily!
4. Pick your movies carefully! I’ve found that I get enough catastrophe on the news, so when it’s time to Netflix, I steer clear of the Contagions or Stephen King adaptations. I go with movies like the Harry Potter, the Marvel or DC Universes, or the Star Wars flicks, to take me, at least momentarily, to a universe far, far away from CNN.
5. Ask your introverted friends to think outside of their box and call / text you once in awhile! After all of these years, it’s their turn to do some of the reaching out!
6. Try to eat healthy meals. Both practices really will help your mood. The latter is toughest for me, as I tend to stress eat. I went through a pound bag of dark chocolate M & Ms during the weekend that coronavirus got real, but I’ve since pulled it together. Occasional indulgences are fine, which leads to my final tips:
7. Take care of yourself, and somebody else. I used to use that line as my sign-off to my weekly radio show, one or two lifetimes ago, long before Ellen started saying “be kind to one another.” It’s never been a better time to adopt that message.
8. Above all, remember: this too shall pass!
As the recommendations have just been amended to call for social isolation until at least April 30, we’re going to need these tips and more — especially for the extroverts of the world! If the extroverts in your life have other ideas for staying sane, mention them in the comments.