Social isolation can impact you and your loved one’s mood, perspective, ability to cope with stress and sense of self.

With routines disrupted and hunkering into close quarters, cabin fever is a real danger.

Managing change, processing news and social isolation can get in the way of everyday functioning. In turn, it can throw off sleep patterns and disrupt focus while affecting both logical and verbal reasoning. People can suffer in social isolation, as personal relationships help to cope with stress. We are social creatures that rely on other human beings.

Even short periods of isolation can cause and increase in anxiety or depression within days.

Taking measures to keep yourself and your loved ones mentally and physically is top priority while continuing to practice the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines.

We’re in this together, and there are healthy steps to take while facing the challenges and commitment to flattening the COVID-19 curve to help shield our nation.

Designing your plan

Keeping a sense of perspective and sourcing information and advice from credible sources will help you as you establish your plan.

• Identify what you and your loved ones think are the biggest challenges.

• Have conversations for facts and feelings.

• What are the strengths you and your family each have that can help during this time? Identify strengths and act to shore up and keep a watchful eye on weaker points.

• Discuss concerns and expectations about the quarantine, and what roles each person can play to make it better.

• For both children and adults facing self-isolation, it’s important to maintain a sense of routine throughout the day, from regular mealtimes to bedtimes.

• For parents working from home, it may mean taking turns.

• Be prepared for adjustments but maintain routines and establish boundaries to support health and well-being.

• Don’t forget about your own needs during a period of self-isolation.

• Utilize meditation, yoga, creative projects, gardening, baking, reading, puzzles, journaling and other forms of self-care. It’ll go a long way in helping with well-being and providing a sanctuary of peace during this time.

• Enjoy having more spare time than usual, especially what can be very rare downtime.

• Using games, crafts and books, along with allowing more screen time than normal during this time, will not be terrible. Keeping a watchful balance, but two weeks in self-isolation at home can be one exception to timing rules. It’s an opportunity to watch family-favorite movies, games and shows. Plan video chat to stay connected with loved ones, family and friends during self-isolation.

• Stress self-care and aim for the best health practices with good sleep hygiene, everyday; maintain a healthy diet, stay hydrated, keep moving and be active with tasks that tick the accomplishment box like long-avoided projects.

• Pay attention to your body, mind and emotions — manage stress.

• Stay informed but set limits on news.

• Always follow the advice of the CDC and your local public health officials.

• If you need help, reach out to your health provider immediately.

As an acute care physician, a special note: While maintaining CDC and local guidelines, plan to spend some time outdoors in your backyard, garden or porch — or even just opening a window. With children, create fun outdoor activities.

There are direct connections between time spent in nature and your health. Benefits are plentiful and wide-ranging: reducing stress, tension, mental fatigue, negativity, anxiety and depression and helping increase immunity against sickness and disease.

This will help stimulate mental health, focus and creativity, increase energy, better bone health, decrease inflammation and more.

Studies show within 3-5 minutes after taking a break outdoors (even short jaunts) that heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension fall dramatically when compared to others continuing activities indoors.

Time in nature has been shown to decrease heart rate and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Connecting with nature — even in short bursts — not only soothes, dissipates and neutralizes perceptions of stressful situations but also how your body reacts to it. It can naturally boost your feel-good chemical serotonin while also increasing brain activity that’s linked to emotional stability, love and empathy. Spending just 20 minutes outdoors can provide a comparable, natural energy surge as a cup of coffee.

Nature provides encounter opportunities that stimulate problem solving and creative thinking because outdoor spaces are generally more varied and less structured than indoor spaces — which in turn boosts curiosity and the use of your imagination.

On behalf of millions of healthcare workers on the front lines, thank you for your commitment. Take good care.

Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions for Dr. Nina to editor with “Dr. Nina” in the subject line.

This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional.

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