012: Social distancing, isolation, and mental health

Good Fit Poor Fit
Good Fit Poor Fit
012: Social distancing, isolation, and mental health

Show Notes

In this episode, we discussed several ways to keep a check on our own mental health and combat boredom with fun activities during this time of social distancing.

  • FaceTime/Video Calls with friends and family.
  • Set time aside for a hobby you might not usually have time for (crafting, woodworking, fixing cars, etc.)
  • Get outside as much as you can or open the windows for some fresh air.
  • Go to national parks.
  • Exercise. Go for a walk or run outside. Practice yoga (or chair yoga). A lot of gyms are offering free online workout classes. Here are a few from a quick YouTube Search. 
  • Meditation and mindfulness. There are apps, like CALM, that talk you through a simple meditation and mindfulness session.  
  • Read, listen to music (or audio books/podcasts), do puzzles, play video games, etc.
  • Face masks, taking a warm bath, or painting your nails can help you feel more relaxed! 
  • Try and utilize friends or other services to help reduce your anxiety. Have things delivered vs going out to the store.
  • Do things that you’ve been putting off to increase your overall mental health. Organizing or getting rid of things you don’t need anymore. Reducing clutter is beneficial for mental health!
  • Take a break from the news if you can or limit the time you spend getting information.
  • Baking/cooking
  • Homemade Play-doh

Play Dough Recipe (Kendal Butler)

1 c flour
1/2 c salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 c water
1 TBS vegetable oil
food coloring

Combine dry ingredients in a saucepan. Combine wet ingredients then add them to the saucepan. Stir with whisk until thoroughly mixed. Cook over medium heat until dough forms, stirring constantly. When dough forms and liquid is gone, remove from heat and knead dough on countertop until it forms a smooth ball. After it cools, store it in an airtight container.


[00:00:31] Hey all! It’s Sarah and I have Kati with me as well. We are recording remotely again as we are all still separated by the Coronavirus, but I wanted to first off say that I hope you all are doing well and able to social distance as you can with the Coronavirus going around. I want to give a big thank you to all essential personnel in so many different fields that have to be at work to serve our communities. It seems like we might be at this for a while so I know many of you are going through a lot of different emotions, whether you’re at home with kids, trying to work from home with kids, going about business as usual because you have to be at work and many, many other situations. 

[00:01:12] So Kati actually has another month with us. Her time has gone by really fast.  But she will be working remotely with all of this going on. She’s about an hour and a half away from myself and Scott, but we are truly thankful that we have all of this technology to keep us organized and to keep us easily connected.

[00:01:33] Kati: I know, I can’t believe my time is coming to a close shortly here, but I am very thankful to be able to complete my doctoral project remotely. I know many of my classmates have been affected by this and they’ve had to leave their sites completely because of school closures and they’re not considered essential at hospitals because we’re all still students, so they’ve been forced to go home.

[00:01:55] So I just consider myself lucky that I do have, you know, the technology in place to work remotely and we can kind of continue with business as usual.  So yeah, I’m currently at home with my family and we’re all staying put and we’re practicing social distancing. It’s been a little difficult. I will say that. It’s been hard trying to stay on task and be productive when my whole routine has kind of changed and also my whole family is home from school and work now, so they can be a little distracting but I’m trying to look at this whole experience through a positive lens.

[00:02:27] I’m cherishing the time that I have with them because my fiance and I are actually planning to move in together this summer. So in just a few months I won’t be around them as much. So I’m trying to remain positive and make the memories with them even though this is a huge time of uncertainty and anxiety and we don’t really know the outcome yet, but we’re just going to take it one day at a time and we will get through this. 

[00:02:51] Sarah: Yeah. I think that’s kind of what everybody is thinking too. And I’m so glad that you’re able to be home with your family ’cause you were kind of living alone here. So I’m so glad you’re at least able to be with other people.  Definitely been helpful that our organization already had remote working structure and you’ve been able to do that. You also have so many exciting things coming up, so I know, like you’re really anxious for all of this to settle down so you can move forward with what’s next in life. 

[00:03:16] Kati: Yes. 

[00:03:18] Sarah: And Kati, I just wanted to tell you after listening to your podcast, episode number 10, one of our last podcasts, I actually found myself dreaming of the time when we can go back to socializing and going to other people’s homes for a backyard party or just to visit. I’ve had friends help bring buy some groceries and all I wanted to do was sit and chat, but we had to do so, so far apart. So it’s kind of making me sad because I just want to  connect with friends and family in person. Don’t get me wrong, video chats are definitely helpful. But now I’m realizing the importance of being together in person. 

[00:03:56] I was also thinking about a Facebook group that I’m a part of  and it’s actually a group for wives and girlfriends of people who have spinal cord injury. One of the ladies asked the people in the group what precautions they were taking and how much social distancing they could actually do.

[00:04:13] The range of  answers went from, you know, going about business as normal or they were isolating themselves completely. Most people were saying that they were isolating themselves completely or only going out for essentials because of the decreased immune systems that their family members may have.

[00:04:30] Some of the women were also worried about getting sick themselves and not being able to care for their spouse, which is a valid concern. Of course, a lot of people are worried about just contracting the virus. But over this past winter, Scott got a cold and because of his decreased ability to cough,  he doesn’t have a great diaphragm due to his spinal cord injury. It took him a long time to get over a typical cold. So it wasn’t really a hard decision for us to try and reduce the risk by staying home as much as possible. There was also a discussion in this group about how some people don’t really see much of a disturbance from this quarantine because they really don’t go out and about much anyway. And this broke my heart because the quarantine may have some small changes to their families, but they experienced this every day. 

[00:05:23] My mind went to quite a few situations for why this might be the case. So I first thought about the design of things. Yes, we have the ADA for public places, but we know it’s not perfect. There are communities not meeting the needs of people who want to go out and be social due to the design of the buildings or infrastructure.

[00:05:42] We definitely know that’s the case for other people’s homes. We’ve talked about this before in previous podcasts. We’ve also experienced trouble in trying to get into restaurants, move through parking lots with shopping carts in the way. Side note: we were those people that went viral in the shopping cart Facebook post, as well as finding an accessible bathroom can be difficult and it’s kind of complicated to figure out accessible seating to go to a show or a concert. 

[00:06:10] So we’ve experienced some of those things and sometimes we choose to plow through and do them and you know, other people may think that’s too much of a disturbance for them or too difficult.

[00:06:21] I also thought about medical conditions. Some people might not go out and about because of medical things that arise. Some people are on ventilators and can only go out for a short amount of time. Others may not have a vehicle that can transport their wheelchair. There are also people who require assistance of an aid or additional caregiver just to get out of the home.

[00:06:42] And there are so many other reasons why people don’t go out in the first place, but this really says a lot if people are not seeing much of a change in their everyday lives currently, while most of the world is on lockdown. 

[00:06:54]So Kati, what have you experienced differently because of this mandate to social distance to flatten this curve and reduce the spread of the virus?

[00:07:02] Kati: Well, I’ve definitely experienced change, but before we get into my personal experience, I did want to thank you for sharing all of that that you’ve read and experienced yourselves. It’s really interesting to learn about how other people experience the world. And the fact that some people aren’t really experiencing much change because they’ve already been so isolated from inaccessibility. It’s heartbreaking. And so I just thank you for sharing all of that. It means a lot. 

[00:07:29] And so going back to your question, I’ve experienced, you know, just change in routine. I’m not able to work from my cute little coffee shop anymore, or my library. I’ve been cooped up at home and those were places that I really enjoyed going because I loved the ambiance and I just really love being around people and getting my little latte.

[00:07:48] And, and that was what I needed to be productive. And now that I don’t have that, it’s different, but I’m still trying to keep on task. So I think I took that for granted a little bit.  

[00:07:59] And I’ve also been a little bit more anxious than usual. I think that’s just because at my house the news was constantly on TV at the beginning of all of this. Since it’s kind of been a couple of weeks now, since it’s starting to like really amp up, we’ve turned turn the news off, but people are still talking about it all over social media and you can’t really read anything these days without having it relate to the Coronavirus. It’s just scary and anxiety provoking. 

[00:08:30] And there’s a lot going on with my schooling right now where we don’t know if graduation will happen. And it’s a huge thing we’ve been looking forward to. And that’s a similar scenario for a lot of people who are in high school, college, undergrad, and graduate programs. So it’s just all that, all this stuff that’s unknown. It’s been tough to, you know, come to terms with, but just gotta stay positive. 

[00:08:55] But we’ve been combating this by keeping the TVs off.  We’re watching shows and movies that are lighthearted and funny, and that kind of brightens up the house.

[00:09:04] And yeah. I’ll bring this up too. I have been feeling a little lonely, which kind of sounds crazy because I’m in a house full of people, but it’s really because I haven’t seen my fiance in weeks. We’re not together during this time, which has been hard when you’re used to seeing your significant other very often. But he is actually an essential employee, so he’s continuing to go into work every day and we feel it’s best to stay apart during this time because I do still live with my parents and my grandma. And so we’re just trying to flatten the curve the best we can and kind of stop the spread of the virus. So we’ve just been texting and FaceTiming a lot and that seems to be helping, but everyone is still dealing with their own situations at home, so it’s hard. 

[00:09:48] Sarah: Yeah. And it is hard because like you’re away from your fiance. We had some friends who he was up in another state and they’re getting married in like a few weeks and she hightailed it up to the other state from Virginia because she’s like, I don’t know if the states are going to be on lockdown. Like, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get up there to get married. So I’m thankful that they’re both together now to be able to get married, but I just, I think it’s just, it’s hard. People are separated and I’ve seen stuff on social media of doctors like going home and sleeping in a tent in the garage because they don’t want to infect their family. And so it’s just really disrupting a lot of people. 

[00:10:27] And I know here at our apartment complex, we’ve had to take extra precautions as well.  So we actually live in an apartment that’s at the very, very end of a really long hallway in our complex. And for us to go anywhere, we have to walk down this long hallway to get to the elevator, the trash shute. There’s also our mail is in another building. And so we have to go  down our hall, across the bridge, over to another building to get our mail and our packages. And then people are talking about, don’t, don’t bring your packages inside. And I’m like, well. How do I, how do I deal with that? 

[00:11:02] So because we’re not really sure who’s walking around in our hallway and if they are infected, I feel like I have to take precautions by wiping  down our shoes. If Scott goes out, I need to wipe down his wheelchair, cause he’s basically walking around with his hands. Right. He’s pushing his wheels and it’s kind of like us using our hands and walking on the floor cause he pushes his tires cause they’re all over the floor.  So I have to wipe those down and , wipe down the stroller if we take our daughter out. And plus she’s putting her mouth on everything. So I don’t want any of that to come into our apartment. So going through all of that makes us not really want to go out, but then we feel like we need to get out and take a walk and get some fresh air.

[00:11:44] So it’s hard because it does lead to more isolation and it makes it even more difficult to go outside. Our daughter is almost 17 months old, but I’m sure she’s missing running out outside and getting her energy out. I know I am missing that for her . I am thankful our porch is available and we can be outside and get some fresh air that way.

[00:12:05] Kati: Yeah. Getting outside has been a huge blessing for me. Luckily the weather has been pretty nice until today, actually it’s raining today. But we’ve been able to go on long walks with our dogs throughout the neighborhood and my neighborhood is really accessible I think. We have nice walking paths that are paved and we have curb cuts and we have little ponds and creeks that the dogs like to go to.

[00:12:29] So that’s what we’ve been doing to get out of the house.  Other than that, we haven’t really gone anywhere. But you know, that just makes me think like, luckily I do live in a neighborhood that have pathways that are paved, because some people don’t, so they really are isolated to just their house if they aren’t able to get out and experience their communities or their neighborhoods because they might not be able to get up onto a sidewalk or the streets might be too busy for them to go through. 

[00:12:56] Sarah: That’s a really good point. That’s another term out there that’s been circulating is like is your neighborhood walkable?  And that includes being accessible for people that use mobility devices so you don’t have to walk in the road. Like, is there even a sidewalk anyway? And you know, they’ve also opened up the national parks for people to go out and use the parks for free. But I was thinking about that the other day. And you know, there actually isn’t a really great trail that we can use out in the park because they’re either too steep or not easy for a wheelchair to use and so there are a few definitely that we could go out on. 

[00:13:32] And so that’s  another big thing for accessibility, at least in general. But for this time for sure is if you can’t get out of your house or you can’t get around your neighborhood, it makes it really hard to get out and get some fresh air.

[00:13:44] Kati: Yeah. 

[00:13:45] Sarah: So also, I think in light of all of these events with the Coronavirus and being mandated to stay at home and also got me thinking about the families and individuals that basically stay home all the time. I want everyone else to kind of think about some of the isolation that you guys are feeling right now in your homes and how that might make you feel if your life was like that all the time. Individuals with disabilities  or individuals who have chronic issues that aren’t easily able to get outside. They are basically stuck in their homes and they feel like this constantly. 

[00:14:18] And it’s not just the person with a disability. I know that a lot of the caregivers in the group talk about being isolated and isolated from their friends and spouses  and sometimes children feel this as well in the home and that’s just a normal occurrence for them. 

[00:14:34] And so we might feel it in a small scale now, like my daughter can’t go to the local children’s museum or play in the equipment in the park. We’re trying to be really creative here, but it really does get to you pretty quickly when you are stuck at home surrounded by the same four walls and there’s only so much TV you can watch. And so many things you can do on social media or TV or whatever. 

[00:14:57] Kati:  Yeah, I mean it definitely gets to you. Like I said earlier, my grandma lives with us and she’s very independent. Her and my grandfather moved in with us, I’d say, like seven years ago now.  He’s since passed, but she is still very independent and she likes to keep busy. She likes to go out and go shopping, get her nails done and get her hair done. And she’ll often drive up to New Jersey to visit my cousins and my aunt. And she was actually planning to do it this weekend, but we kept her home. We said, no way are you going anywhere and it is driving her stir crazy. 

[00:15:30] It just goes to show that this Corona virus is impacting every single person and population. You know,  whether it’s a toddler or a teenager, you know, who can go to school anymore, or an adult who can’t go to work or an elderly person like my grandma, everyone is being affected by this in some way. 

[00:15:48] And I can tie this to the concept of universal design and the way that the environment is built. Think of it this way, if the environment is poorly designed, it can have a negative impact on everyone, people of all ages and abilities because they might not be able to perform their occupations or their daily tasks to the best of their ability because of the way the environment is designed.

[00:16:09] So if you want to establish a good fit for everyone, you just need to implement universal design. And so that more people can be functional and take care of themselves and their responsibilities even during times like these, when people with disabilities are already so isolated  we need to make sure that our environments and our communities are accessible to them when they’re able to go and use it. 

[00:16:29] Sarah: Definitely. You know we often say that when people feel comfortable about taking care of their everyday activities in their home, that they’re more likely to go out into the community to do other things. So if people are living in homes that aren’t functional for them, making taking care of their daily tasks really difficult, then they’re definitely not going to go out into the community because they’re thinking that it will cause them a lot of frustration and they will ask like, is it really worth it?

[00:16:54] So, by making sure we make our homes and community more functional for everyone, it’s more likely that people will feel comfortable going out into the community to be social and to do all sorts of different things and be with their family and friends in different places.

[00:17:10] So all in all, I know we don’t know how long this thing is going to last, how long we’re going to be isolated in our homes due to this virus. But it does make me pause and think about the work we’re trying to do with our organization. And I feel like there’s a direct correlation between the two, especially in regard to your mental health. 

[00:17:27]Kati: Yeah. I think now that more people are going to be working from home and staying at home, everyone’s routines are going to change, and I think the overall impact of the Coronavirus and social distancing and quarantine is going to have a huge effect on our mental health.

[00:17:44] It all boils down to the fact that people are going to experience occupational deprivation and that could lead to impaired mental health. And I just spit out that term occupational deprivation. And what  occupational deprivation means is that someone can’t participate in their desired activity or occupation because of factors outside of their control.

[00:18:03] So we can’t control what’s happening with this virus and that’s causing people to be isolated and not able to enjoy the things that they would otherwise be doing. And if prolonged, like you said, we don’t know how long this is going to last , it’s possible that this could negatively impact our mental health because we’re stuck inside all day doing stuff that we probably don’t really want to be doing. 

[00:18:25] But we’ve actually brainstormed some ways for you guys to stay positive and practice good mental health during this time of uncertainty. 

[00:18:32] I know for me FaceTime has been a huge help. I’ve been chatting with my fiance and I’ve been chatting with my friends from school and I’ll look at the phone and before I know it, two hours has passed. So, you know, it’s a fun way to put a smile on your face and it reminds you that we’re kind of all in this together. 

[00:18:48] Sarah: I know, we’ve been doing video chats with friends and family and we hope to do more of that too. And I think our daughter appreciates that as well, although she gets kind of sad when my mom pulls out a toy that she can’t grab. Like she still doesn’t understand the fact that she can’t touch the toy on the other side of the phone. 

[00:19:05] So another one: Get outside as much as you can or open the windows to get some fresh air. This is something that Scott and I need to do more oft en . But I know people are talking about not getting on the playground equipment, but just being outside, maybe running, walking, doing something to be active is super helpful. 

[00:19:22] Kati: Yeah. I think exercise is a great thing to do if you can do it. I’ve been going for walks and runs outside. You could even practice yoga and there are options for chair yoga. So you can Google that and a lot will come up for you. And I know a lot of gyms are actually offering free online workout classes. I’m a member at Planet Fitness and I got an email from them that said they’re going to offer free workouts, like free at home workouts for you to do and you don’t even need equipment.

[00:19:51] So, I haven’t done one of those yet, but the fact that I know it’s there if I want to is really nice. And I’m sure you could Google or search on YouTube for a bunch of other home workouts. 

[00:20:04] Another thing that I thought would be fun and a good way to kind of help out with your mental health is to set time aside for a hobby that you might not usually have time for. I think a lot of people are doing that, from what I can see on social media. A lot of people are like, you know, I haven’t painted in a while. I’m going to pull out my old paint set and you know paint a painting or do a craft, or, you know, fix a car . Do whatever brings you joy in this time when we actually have some more time to do it.

[00:20:33] Sarah: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I think that’s great because I know we might have set aside these like crafting supplies or woodworking supplies or things to do on a rainy day or when we have time and now that we have some extra time, that’s a great thing to get your mind on to something else and to get your hands moving.

[00:20:51] Kati: So, yeah. Actually, my mom found out that Michael’s craft store was offering curbside pickup. So you would do an online order and then they’ll bring it out to your car. So my mom, my sister and I went online and we ordered some more craft stuff cause we, I love to paint and so does my sister, but we didn’t really have a lot of like good paint left. Like a lot of our paint had been dried up, so we didn’t really have that many paint brushes. So we went online and we ordered all this stuff and my mom had her 40% Michael’s coupon and she went and picked it up for us. And so my sister and I have been doing a little painting together, which has been nice.

[00:21:30] Sarah: Yeah, that’s nice. I also had my cousin and I have been talking and he decided to put together a 2000 piece puzzle and so I’ve been asking for updates on how that’s going and he sent me pictures of like little piles of colors and things all around his kitchen, so he might be doing that awhile.

[00:21:50] So yeah, 

[00:21:51] Kati: 2,000 pieces! That’s a lot. 

[00:21:52] Sarah: Yeah! It is a lot. So I think like puzzles, doing board games, video games, listening to audio books or podcasts Music is also a big one. Reading. I think a lot of those are really helpful just to stay busy and to get your mind elsewhere. 

[00:22:08] Kati: Yeah. And another thing to kind of help get your mind somewhere else is doing meditation or mindfulness exercises. There are apps that you can download for free. For example, there’s one that’s called Calm. It’s just C, A L, M, and that talks you through a simple meditation and mindfulness session. And they’re not that long. They’re like 5 or 10 minutes long, but it just helps you kind of calm down and reduce some anxiety that you’re feeling. So practicing meditation mindfulness is helpful. 

[00:22:36] And something else to kind of help you feel relaxed is, and this might be more interesting to the girls listening, but to do a face mask or taking a relaxing warm bath or just painting your nails and like pampering yourself. It might be a good time to do this just to help you feel like you’re a person and you’re beautiful and help you to kind of calm down and feel more relaxed. 

[00:22:59] Sarah: Yeah. I had a friend actually post a picture of herself on Facebook today and she dyed her hair red. So I think, you know, might as well do something a little different and fun than while you’re inside.

[00:23:12] You had also talked about reducing anxiety, and I know some folks that I’ve talked to and I know myself have gotten some anxiety just knowing that they have to go out to get food. And so I think trying to think of other ways to have friends or family or other services help with those things. So having your food or things delivered. I know some of the delivery times are just crazy because everybody’s thinking that way or if a friend was able to get a Walmart order, maybe they can put a few things on the order for you as well.  So, especially if you are a little higher risk, so you don’t have to go out and expose yourself further. Those are some other things that we’ve utilized .

[00:23:51] Kati: And another way to reduce some anxiety is to actually organize and get rid of things that you might not need anymore. There’s research out there that says reducing clutter is beneficial for your mental health. So that’s something my family has been practicing over the past week. We’ve all cleaned out our closets. We’re in the process of cleaning out our basement and going through some old boxes and stuff. So that’s an idea to keep you busy too. 

[00:24:18] Sarah: Yeah. One of  my friends posted on Facebook that they are going to be some pretty amazing yard sales after all of this is over.

[00:24:28] Kati: Yeah, like we have a box of stuff set aside to donate, but we can’t take it to any donation centers right now. So it’s just sitting and it’s kind of an eye sore. But we can’t do anything with it right now. 

[00:24:40] Sarah: Yep. No, I have a pile going as well. 

[00:24:42] Another thing that we use it here , we actually made Play-doh and I was excited actually to play with it more than I think my daughter was cause she wasn’t quite sure what to think of it yet, but I just really wanted to mash it around and make things and it was a really good stress reliever for me and we had all the ingredients in our pantry already. And you don’t even have to put food dye in it if you don’t have food dye. But that was just a lot of fun and it really was kind of like the real deal, Play-doh that you would get in the store. 

[00:25:08] Kati: That’s so awesome.  Sarah told me this the other day and I asked her for the recipe, so I’m looking forward to making some homemade Play-doh myself.

[00:25:17] Sarah: Yeah. It was a lot of fun. Yeah. Now and then I think I’ve even heard of some people just baking and cooking and just doing some things that like recipes that they never tried and if they’re able to find the ingredients, their home more and  more people are running their dishwashers more often because they’re actually cooking more.

[00:25:37] Kati: Yeah. Baking is something that I do to get my mind off things and I know a lot of my classmates bake too, because during exam weeks there was always someone bringing in extra cupcakes for us to eat, because they would “stress cook” is what they would say. 

[00:25:54] Sarah:  I’m not a stress cooker, so I was happy to have other people stress cook for me.

[00:26:00] Yeah. And I think another big one like you alluded to earlier, is just take a break from the news if you can. And I know that makes me more anxious. And just to not click onto the site to see how many new deaths there have been, where I think that’s, you know, if we can limit that, it helped reduce our anxiety.

[00:26:17] And I think this is a really great list of ideas to help us in this frustrating situation. And there are definitely a lot of valid things to worry about. Like, I don’t want to take that off the table but I think it is a good time to take a break and focus on ourselves and our families when we can and try to flip the perspective to think positive and think of what positives are still here amid all of this hard stuff.

[00:26:39] And I hope you made it to end of this podcast with us. I’m thankful you guys are listening and this is kind of how we’re doing here. We’re still plugging ahead remotely. And I hope you’re all able to stay healthy and even through this super hard time of keeping your social distance, do know that it is to help ease the burden on those who do you have to be out there to support us and our communities. So thanks again for tuning in for another episode with us and we really look forward to sharing more with you soon. 

[00:27:09] Have a good day.


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