Do we really have to stay home right now? Can I go out to buy groceries? Should we cancel that playdate with the neighbors? And seriously, what’s up with everyone stocking up on toilet paper? Let’s learn together how to navigate social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic without freaking out.

What exactly is social distancing?

Social distancing primarily means avoiding large gatherings to prevent spread of illness. The amount of people in a “large gathering” has continued to shift, but as of March 16, the CDC recommended cancelling events of 10 or more people. This means we’re all going to get really good at using Facetime, Zoom, Google Hangouts or your preferred video chat option for a while.

Social distancing also means that if you need to be around people, try to keep at least 6 feet between you to better prevent viral spread. If you must go to work, remain aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath), wash your hands/clean surfaces that are frequently touched and stay home if you are sick.

Pro-Tip: If you get tired of singing “Happy Birthday” twice while you wash your hands for the recommended 20 seconds, find a chorus of similar length to sing, such as Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” or one of these other options from NPR.

Why should we implement social distancing?

According to Katherine Wilson, a mother of two in Italy, “The only thing that could have prevented — or mitigated — this tragedy in Italy is social distancing.” Before the country was locked down on an official quarantine, their schools were closed but many people, especially kids, were still going out in the evenings.

If your kids are begging you to go out to play, or telling you that everyone else’s parents are letting them go to that big party, she says, “Your reply should be something along the lines of ‘Where are my Beats?’ Tune them out.”

Remember that social distancing truly means staying home as much as possible, for both your safety and the safety of others. “I’m talking about not being close to another human being who is not your immediate family,” says Wilson. She also recommends letting go of screen time concerns (and we’ve got some fun learning resources and virtual tours that you can try out with kids and adults alike).

What about groceries and stockpiles?

You’ve probably heard about people stocking up on toilet paper and bottled water, but try not to worry. Even in a lockdown situation, supermarkets will remain open or supplies can be delivered.

You don’t need to create a stockpile of food, try to just keep your pantry and fridge stocked as usual. In fact, why not take this time to attempt cooking food that you’ve always wanted to try? You’re never going to make that time-consuming baked Alaska any other time of year, right?

What should we do at home?

It’s easy to sit around on the couch and let your worry turn into panic, or to let yourself become overwhelmed by the children — or the other adults — in your home. A few tips from local health professionals to keep from feeling anxious include:

  • Facetime or call loved ones outside your home
  • Go for a walk (just keep your distance from others)
  • Work on spring cleaning (as long as that is relaxing to you!)
  • Maintain a regular schedule for meals and sleeping

It may seem like this social distancing time will last forever, but we will get through this by uniting together… on Facetime… from our own homes.