Posted by on Apr 2, 2020 in Blog, Coronavirus / COVID-19 | 4 comments

I have had the good fortune of belonging to a neighborhood book club that meets once a month. Since the coronavirus and social distancing, we haven’t met until last night. One of the neighbors had the great idea of meeting online. And it was terrific!

I wouldn’t have realized how important that was a few weeks ago, even though some elements of social distancing have been part of our family’s lifestyle since a celiac disease diagnosis. People who have chronic conditions and are more vulnerable to illness know about social isolation. Every flu season is a new challenge.

But the coronavirus adds to the fear. And the ramifications of work furloughs or job losses are amping up anxiety. That’s why I looked for advice from someone who has experienced isolation on an extreme level. How did an activist cope with nine years of isolation while detained in a Soviet gulag?

Natan Sharansky was a soviet dissident. In 1978, he was sentenced to 13 years of hard labor for his views and human rights activism. He was released to Israel during a prisoner exchange orchestrated by President Reagan. In a recent interview, Sharansky provided a list of five tips for getting through this time of social distancing.

1) Remember that you are part of something bigger – your behavior of social distancing matters in a bigger picture

2) Do not assume the experience will be short term. Be sure to have something to keep you occupied during this time. (For Sharansky, that something was chess. Sharansky was a competition chess player and during his stay in the gulag, he played chess games in his head to keep himself busy and his mind sharp.)

3) Keep a sense of humor.

4) Don’t give up hobbies. (I’m a bird lover and enjoy this website: The Cornell Lab All About Birds. It features live video streaming of nesting owls, hawks, osprey and rare birds.

5) Feel your connection with others. You are not alone.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks relies on the Psalms to keep going. Interviewed by TED on March 30th he led a prayer for all of us. It is about 25 minutes into this dialogue.

In our previous New Year’s posts, we have shared music that our readers use to help them through difficult times. Ending the Year with Music, Ending the year with Music #2, andMusic Can Help: Ending the Year with Music.

Please share your strategies for dealing with social isolation in the comments section below.

Feature Image: Attribution: Alpha Stock Images –

Original Author: Nick Youngson –

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