It’s been a tough, emotional and exhausting week – and I’m writing this on a Tuesday.

The news about the spread of the coronavirus has been mostly bad, and there is rightly a lot of concern about the economic consequences of the social distancing we are being asked to participate in. I find myself checking my phone for the latest news far too frequently, even though I know it’s not good for my mental health.

It’s been rough for kids, too. After learning that their schools would be closed until at least April 6, our three kids and exchange daughter have already cycled through a variety of emotions – excitement, it’s a three-week snow day! The disappointment of not being able to show off the things they’ve been working hard on – one kiddo was super bummed to not be able to present his science fair findings. And sadness knowing that they won’t be with their friends for another three weeks.

I spent the bulk of Sunday morning alternating between deep cleaning the kids’ closets and checking my news feed. Finally, despite the damp fog, I put on a second layer of clothes, laced up my shoes and walked out the door. It was the best, most refreshing thing I could do for myself.

It’s easy to go stir-crazy staying at home, with everyone all cooped up with each other. And while bingeing Netflix sounds OK right now, none of us can do three weeks of Netflix and the couch.

Here are some ideas to keep yourself and your family sane and mentally healthy while social distancing:

Get outside! Many folks who choose to live here do so at least in part because they enjoy outdoor pursuits, and there has never been a better time to get outside. Fresh air doesn’t fix everything, but it’s a good place to start. Ride a bike. Take a walk or a run. Play catch with your kids. Play hopscotch or tag. Draw a four-square court. Jump a rope. Blow bubbles. Get out the sidewalk chalk. Create an obstacle course – or have the kids create one. The cross-country skiing is still good and so is the sledding up at Pole Creek.

Make something. I am to crafty as ice is to hot, but desperate times call for desperate measures, so we’re doing some simple “crafts” these next couple of weeks. Dye some Easter eggs. Let each kid choose a planet to learn about and then make paper-mache planets (Multiday activities for the win!). Work on a photo album you’ve been meaning to put together. Braid friendship bracelets. Make paper airplanes and see whose flies the farthest.

Read – anything. The stack of books on my bedside table is primed for a situation just as this. Catch up with the pile of magazines collecting dust on your coffee table. If you need some reading material, check out the Johnson County Library’s selection of e-books, e-magazines and even audio books.  

Play a game or a puzzle. We love board games at our house, when we can play them without fighting, but I also love puzzles – Sudoku, crosswords and brainteasers. Bust out the playing cards and teach your kids some new games or let them teach you.  

Cook just for the fun of it. Try a new recipe. Bake cookies or bread. Watch a video and learn a new technique.

Do the stuff. Get a jump start on your spring cleaning. Go through the kids’ clothes and take out the things that no longer fit. Ditto for toys and books they’ve outgrown. Give the garage a once over. Deep clean the fridge and the pantry. (The goal here isn’t fun so much as it is not giving into apathy and laying around on the couch in your PJs.)

Stay in touch. We’re social creatures. We crave social interaction, and just because we’re staying home more doesn’t mean we can’t keep in touch. Video chat with friends or family. Write a letter to a friend or family member. Most of us have at least one family member who has been involuntarily socially distanced for some time due to health or old age. I’m sure a letter would be welcome.

Turn on the tech. Take a virtual museum tour. If you can’t visit the Smithsonian, you can still take in a virtual tour. The Cincinnati Zoo is offering daily livestreaming educational events for kids. Children’s author Mo Willems is offering a weekly lunchtime doodle session online. There are also a variety of fitness streaming services that offer everything from kickboxing to yoga. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, many of these videos are available free to you. Binge a podcast – may I suggest “Finding Fred” if you need a pick-me-up.

Perhaps most important: Don’t panic. Things are likely to change rapidly, including the restrictions we’re asked to comply with and the number of confirmed cases in our community. As the state’s testing capacity ramps up, the number of positives will rise too – that’s to be expected.

Protect your health and continue connecting with family and friends, virtually if necessary. Our lives are going to be different for a while, but we will get through this. If ever there was a time for grace, it is now.

Take heart in knowing that by staying home and baking cookies or reading a book, you’re doing your part to slow the spread.

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