How to preserve one’s bubble

By Jennifer Warner

The timeline for relationships has changed amid the pandemic, slowing down in many ways.
(Jose Manuel Gonzalez/Dreamstime/TNS)

From health screening questionnaires to temperature checks, we know how businesses are handling the coronavirus in terms of screening the community. But as we navigate our new norms within a relentless global pandemic, how are we handling the virus in our own social circles?

When we were tasked to stay safe in our houses, CDC guidelines were clear: only go out in public for food, fresh air, and medical attention; stay six feet apart, wear a mask, and if you can, stay home.

But now that we have entered a new phase of societal reopening, the rubric for social interaction feels unclear and ridden with variables. How do you decide who to socialize with? Who do you open your circle to? Where do you spend your time together?

Striking a balance between maintaining mental health and protecting physical health can be a daunting task in this new world. Our individual comfort levels vary as do our needs.

According to The World Health Organization, these new realities of going virtual and staying home, in addition to the fear of contracting the virus, forces us to consider our mental health as much as our physical health.

When planning your social comeback, consider the following steps to determine what works best for you.

Staff members greet visitors outside the National Museum of African American History and Culture as it reopens following its temporary closure due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.
(Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Get to know Covid-19

Knowledge is power. Dr. Joshua Morganstein of the American Psychiatric Association stresses the importance of timely and accurate information during an outbreak, and states how critical of a role it plays in controlling the spread and managing fear. How is Covid-19 transmitted? What are the common symptoms? Learning for yourself the most basic of facts from reputable resources can help you determine how to best mitigate risk.

It’s also important to know what is happening in your area. Climbing or dropping infection rates should influence how, when, and where we choose to interact. So, check the CDC, WHO, and local government websites to find their current recommendations and educational content.

Get to know yourself

What is most important to you as you reenter the world? What will bring you the most amount of peace? For some people, virtual gatherings aren’t enough to fill their social cup. For others, the anxiety surrounding a public space far outweighs the benefits of an opportunity for personal, face-to-face interaction.

What are you comfortable asking of the people you encounter? We can bring our masks, our gloves, our hand sanitizer, whatever our personal means of protection may be. But we’re likely going to encounter someone who may not practice the same precautions.

It’s important that you feel comfortable asking for space or asking for someone to adjust their mask. If not, an outdoor widely spaced activity may be best suited for you as the CDC recommends masks, and social distancing of at least 6 feet. It’s helpful to identify your comfort level and plan accordingly.

Get to know your friends and family

Determine who among your friends and family is at high risk. The coronavirus is most devastating for those with underlying conditions.

The CDC identifies those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, weakened immune system, heart conditions, and more as individuals at an increased of severe illness should they contract Covid-19. Asking about the health of others might feel invasive but it could save someone’s life.

Furthermore, in taking the recommended precautions, we’re protecting the more vulnerable population, and the more inundated health care facilities.

So, make sure you spend your time and energy on people who agree with the protective choices you’re making. Don’t know how they feel? Ask! Most people are willing if not eager to discuss their thoughts on the current health crisis, as well as their views on mask wearing, school closings, reduced capacities, and more.

Expanding your social circle requires research, communication, and empathy. There isn’t and shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. Most importantly, remember that we’re all just trying to survive.

Contact Jennifer Warner at The Communitarian by emailing communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

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