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What exactly is social distancing...and what does it mean for freelance writers?
If you're working from home as a freelance writer, blogger, or author -- especially an introverted one -- you might be watching the news right now and ready to breathe a heavy sigh of relief as social isolation and social distancing become life-saving tools.
When the CDC started telling everyone to stay home and avoid large crowds, you could almost hear the introverts let out a sign of relief. At least, you would have if they weren't already in their homes avoiding people.
But, here's the thing: social distancing is hard. Even for introverts like me.
Human beings are very social animals -- it's in our nature. We thrive on regular social interaction and validation. Yes, even introverts.
Introverts just need the actual interaction less often and require a longer recovery time after to recharge their battery. But social interaction is still very much necessary.
Which brings me back to my point: social distancing, even as an introvert, can be hard. I've seen a lot of freelance writers asking about what they need to do, if anything, and the number of people who seem to think that social distancing means "living their life normally because they're an introvert who already stays pretty distant" is staggering.
Social distancing, especially social distancing for the purpose of hindering the spread of a global pandemic, is going to require some very specific changes in the way we live and work.
For the first time ever, society is forcing extroverts into an ##introverted atmosphere. How can we make this easier on them?♬ Ive been waiting for this moment for all my life - coachcurtis88
What is Social Distancing?
MIT Technology Review has put together an amazing list of tips and tricks to help just about anyone with what social distancing really means.
Social distancing is more than merely staying home. It also means that when you do go out (which may be inevitable), to stay away from people. In fact, keeping a distance of six feet or more from people when you are out can help significantly slow the spread of the virus.
It also means taking extra precautions whenever you come into contact with anyone: using the self-checkout lanes at grocery stores, keeping a dedicated entrance to your home (for those with two or more entrances) to make it easier to disinfect anything, showering after every outing, and (if applicable) disinfecting anything you've brought in during your outing -- especially if it's something that other people have handled before you picked it up.
And for freelance writers, especially those with local clients, it may mean changing from personal client meetings over coffee to video chats and meetings over virtual meeting softwares like Zoom or Google Hangouts. It may also mean that those writing conferences you were hoping to attend (maybe you even bought your tickets for them) will be cancelled or moved to an online environment.
And that's not all.
To truly help slow the spread of any global pandemic, we need to take better care of ourselves.
Freelance writers are notorious for neglecting themselves: we often work way too hard for way too long. We don't sleep well, we don't eat well, we don't know how to relax. We fight the urge to take care of ourselves because we want too much to take care of our clients. And if we do start feeling sick, we power through.
Self-care, to a freelance writer, is often nonexistent.
But the truth is, when there's a global pandemic going on, following a good, solid self-care routine will help you fight off illness should you be unfortunate enough to cross paths with it.
Self-Care Tips to Help Freelance Writers with Social Distancing
Here are some self-care tips to help boost your social distancing efficacy.
- Get some sleep. Sleep is one of the most important activities we can do for keeping our bodies healthy, yet it's often one of the first things we cut out of our lives as we get busier and busier. Stop waking up super early just to get something done. Stop skipping naptime. Stop staying up super late. Instead, build a sleeping routine that allows you to wake up, go to bed, and/or nap at or around the same time every day. It may take some time to get used to it, especially if you haven't been sleeping well for a long time, but establishing this routine will be one of your best defenses against any virus.
- Make sure you're eating right. My typical breakfast is a can of Diet Coke sitting next to my second mug of coffee. So, I know, eating right is not necessarily my strong suit. But I do try to make up for that throughout the rest of the day by eating small, healthy snacks and a sensible dinner.
- Take supplements and vitamins to make up for gaps in your diet. As 50 inches closer and closer, I'm more and more aware of certain gaps in my diet and certain vitamins and minerals that I'm not necessarily getting even when I eat the healthiest diet imaginable. I'm anemic, for one thing. I'm approaching that age where my joints are getting stiffer and my bones are getting weaker. And I already don't get a lot of sunlight simply because I'm indoors staring at a computer screen all day long.
- Take your medications. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I know so many freelancer writers who ration out their medications because of the cost of refills. And I get it, I really do. I've been known to ration out my blood pressure medication for that very reason. However, when you're getting yourself prepared to potentially fight off a disease or virus, you need to be at your strongest. And that means taking those medications as directed so your body isn't trying to fight off ailments on different fronts.
- Get up every once in a while. It is so easy to sit down at the computer and lose eight hours without even realizing it. Whether you're self-quarantining, following basic social isolation, or in the grips of a forced quarantine, make sure you get up and move around in frequent intervals. Try just walking around the house once an hour, complete a quick chore, stretch, maybe eat a snack. It doesn't have to be a very long break, just enough to get the blood moving through your limbs again.
- Use social media, but don't let it bum you out. As the pandemic grows, it's becoming all people can talk about. Some posts are helpful, others are disdainful, and still others are completely false and tasteless. However, as the call for social distancing gets stronger, as we near closer and closer to full-blown quarantine, visits to online social media is going to be more important for us to get that social interaction and validation. But if our newsfeeds are filled with all the panic, shaming, lies, and misinformation, then that can be harmful for our state of mind. Even if it's just temporarily, hide, unfollow, and snooze anyone who pops up in your newsfeed with posts you don't want to see. You can always go back and re-follow them later when things have passed.
- Create a virtual office with cubicles. People love working from home away from everyone until they are forced into it and they realize they can't leave. But thanks to technology, you can create a virtual working space, complete with cubicles. And it doesn't even have to cost you money. Get onto a free service like Google Hangouts or Zoom and schedule regular, daily meet-ups where everyone can work on their own projects but have that interaction available to them (for feedback, chit chat, or questions) just as if they are in a real office.
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