Let’s Talk about Physical Distancing

Written by Marina Knysheva, ACES Peer Health Educator

As the COVID-19 situation is continuously evolving, our terminology around how to keep ourselves safe and healthy should be as well. We have previously heard that the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is through social distancing, but, a more appropriate phrase may be physical distancing. These terms both mean maintaining 6 feet distance from everyone we come in contact with. COVID-19 is easily spread from person to person, especially when people are simply too close to one another. Although these terms are interchangeable, they can have different influences on our lives and perspectives. During the stressful time we face as a campus community, it’s important for us to stay socially connected, so “social distancing” can be a bit misleading, preventing us from checking in with our friends and loved ones. However, physical distancing has no social component, it really is just physically placing ourselves 6 feet away from someone. Just because we can’t physically be on campus or with the people we care about, we can still find creative ways to stay in touch with our community! For example, many of the amazing campus resources, such as the Counseling Center, the Victim Survivor Advocates, Women’s Resource Center, and many more, are giving students the option to meet virtually. Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime are all great options to continue socializing and supporting one another while physically distancing.

With physical distancing being a new part of our lives, there might be some questions or myths surrounding the topic. For example, if my friends appear to be completely healthy, can I still hang out with them? Unfortunately, the answer is no, because people who appear to be healthy may still be carrying the virus. Therefore, it’s best to only come in contact with people who live in your immediate household. This is a great time to give your pet all those long lost snuggles they have been missing out on! Another common myth is that physical distancing means you cannot leave your house under any circumstances. Although we want to limit our time in public spaces, we can still go to the bank and use the ATM or go to the grocery store early in the morning or later and night, when crowds are smaller. It’s also a great time to support local businesses and order food for pick-up and takeout! Most dining places encourage you to stay in the car, bringing the food out to you. Check out this website to find all of the amazing, local restaurants offering take-out/pick-up during this time.

You might also be wondering, what are some other ways I can spend my time while physically distancing?  Physical distancing should not prevent us from enjoying the warm weather by taking walks and spending time outside. However, for the time being, it’s best to enjoy the outdoors in the comfort of your neighborhood, avoiding parks and hiking trails as those places could potentially have a lot of people. Additionally, although it may seem fun to plan an adventurous getaway to a rural part of Utah for some outdoor activities, we should avoid local travel. Because rural parts of Utah have smaller populations, one person infected with COVID-19 can quickly infect many of the people, overwhelming their healthcare system. In the meantime, grab a great book, a nice drink, and spend some time in the sun, soaking up that Vitamin D. If you like to stay active, but aren’t a fan of walking or running outside, at home workouts are also a great option. There are so many great YouTube exercise videos, where you don’t even need any equipment.

Another way to spend your time during physical distancing while staying in touch with friends is by watching a show or movie through the Google Chrome extension called Netflix party. It also has a chat feature so everyone can talk about the movie or the yummy snacks that they’re eating. This can also be a great time to pick up a new hobby, such as drawing, reading, baking, or puzzle making. I have definitely been baking more cookies these past few weeks than I ever have in my life! However, don’t feel like you have to pick up a new hobby or come up with some idea that could potentially change the world (unless that’s what you want to do). Physically distancing can also be a time for us to recharge, since our daily fast paced life has slowed down. This might be a great time to make yourself that amazing breakfast you never had time to make because you were rushing to get to class. It may also be a great time to incorporate mindfulness activities throughout the day. The University of Utah Counseling Center has a great option of guided mediations we can do from the comfort of our homes. Headspace and Calm are also great apps for mindfulness as well!

Although physical distancing seems hard, it’s a great way to make sure we are protecting our health and the health of others. So although we may have to be physically distant for some time, let’s continue to be socially bonded with one another.


Marina is a senior majoring in Health Promotion & Education. She is an ACES Peer Health Educator on the Harm Reduction team. For more information about our ACES Peer Health Education program, visit our website here.