We realize the shift to social distancing environments comes with a variety of challenges. You may be having a lot of reactions and feelings, all of which are valid and important. Demonstrating care for yourself and others is paramount to maintaining a strong sense of well-being during these challenging times. We encourage you to try out as many of the ideas below as possible in the coming weeks. Find the strategies that work for you and keep doing them every day.
The mental health benefits of safely gathering to socialize during the pandemic outweigh risks for many individuals. Attending open-space small gatherings (10 people or fewer) in which all individuals follow other public health guidelines is reasonable during COVID-19.
It’s important to be especially conscious in such settings. Do not share food or drinks, and be aware of the impact of alcohol and other substance use. When possible, gather outdoors and somewhere other than a restaurant or bar.
Maintaining a consistent and tight social circle in which all agree to respect COVID-19 guidelines is a great way to support each other and show you care about the larger community. Consider establishing informal social contracts within your group of friends, so that expectations are clear and constantly followed.
Note that you may be less concerned about COVID-19 in light of data suggesting individuals 60+years of age, immunocompromised and/or those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk. However, it is important to understand that you play a key role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 to the larger community by avoiding the virus yourself.
- Find creative ways to connect with friends (online coffee date or dinner, Zoom Pictionary, virtual movie night, play an online game with friends).
- Make time to check in with yourself and others about your mental and emotional well-being.
- Enjoy time outside with a friend.
- Make time to check in with yourself and others about how you’re doing. Talk about your reactions to what’s going on right now. Set boundaries if you need to. (“I need to take a break from talking about X – I’ll let you know when I can come back to it.”)
- Leave messages of community support with sidewalk chalk.
- If you are part of an organization or religious community, follow them on social media. Many groups are finding creative ways to stay connected.
- See this flyer from Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services
Social distancing is recommended to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Even young, healthy people without symptoms can carry the virus unknowingly and pass it on to others. Although you may experience only mild symptoms, you may not be aware of underlying health risks among friends and family who could become seriously ill or die.
At Mizzou, we are doing our part by eliminating close contact in classroom, social and living situations. You can do your part by practicing social distancing. Here are examples of safe and unsafe social behaviors:
Practicing social distancing by avoiding:
- Attending or hosting parties.
- Participating in contact sports.
- Spending time in close proximity to anyone, even family, who does not live with you (e.g., riding in a car, hugging, shaking hands, visiting one another’s home).
- Sharing food, drinks, towels or other personal items with others.
Safely connect with people outside your household:
- Stay at least six feet away from others when you are outside your home.
- Keep your social circle small. Identify one or two people to spend time with outdoors (e.g., sitting or standing six feet from one another while you talk).
- Take a walk or a bike ride with a friend while maintaining social distance.
- Wash your hands often — and immediately after touching something that belongs to someone else.
- Call, text, video chat or write a letter.
If you are an essential worker and must interact with others, take care of yourself and others:
- Wear a cloth face covering when outside your home. There are many ways to make a mask at home.
- If possible, put your clothes in the washing machine immediately when you get home.
- Take a shower or bath immediately when you get home.
- Avoid using a co-worker’s phone, work station or work tools.
- Wash your hands often.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Tell your supervisor if someone you’ve spent time with is sick.
One thing we know for certain about COVID-19: It will take all of us working together to defeat it.
We also know that, inevitably, there will be individuals who, for whatever reason, will not follow guidelines. Maybe they forgot their face covering. Maybe they’re having a tough day. Maybe they have a health condition and a corresponding accommodation that allows them to be without a face covering.
We want to encourage face coverings and social distancing when possible, and we want to do so without judgment.
If you see someone who does not appear to be following the guidelines, you have a number of options. The first thing you can do is simply avoid them. This keeps everyone safe and prevents a confrontation.
You also may choose to report people who are not following social distancing guidelines using this form. Supply as much detail as you can. If we’re able to identify the student, we’ll reach out to them and encourage them to follow guidelines in the future.
Alternatively, if you feel comfortable doing so, you may choose to speak to the person or people yourself. Please remember to do so respectfully and without judgement; after all, you don’t know their circumstances.
If you choose to speak to someone who’s not following guidelines, follow these tips:
- Greet them in a friendly manner and introduce yourself.
- Get right to the point. You can say something like, “I just wanted to let you know that the university requires everyone on campus to wear masks/maintain distance of six feet.”
- Listen actively to anything they have to say. To demonstrate that you’ve heard them, repeat back to them what they’ve said. “I understand that you think … I heard you say that …”
- Offer helpful suggestions. For example, “You know, the university provides free disposable face coverings. You can get one at …”
- Even if they don’t respond positively, remain respectful. “I understand. I know you feel this is an inconvenience for you, but I did want to make sure you understand the university’s policy. So thank you for listening.”
- Leave on a friendly note, even if the conversation didn’t go well. Some version of “Have a great day!” will do.
- Notice your feelings and reactions without judging them. Pay attention to what you need and identify one thing you can do to meet your needs.
- Take a break from the news. Staying informed from reputable news sources is important, but overexposure can increase anxiety and overwhelm. Recognize that regardless of new events unfolding, the recommendations that are within individual control stay the same. It isn’t necessary to get every update in real time.
- Try something new. Make a new recipe. Get back into reading. Use makeup tutorials. Start a craft project. Plant a garden. Download TikTok and learn how to dance!
- Move your body in ways that feel good. Bonus points if sunlight is involved! There are many options for yoga and other workouts online if you need to relax or burn off anxious energy. Remember, there’s no pressure to exercise to change your body during a public health crisis (or any time).
- Make sure to laugh. Watch a funny show or video, reflect on fun times and inside jokes with friends, browse social distancing memes (or make your own).
- Be kind to yourself. Download Sanvello and explore the self-care tools.
- Take a mindfulness break with Student Health & Well-Being. Try other breathing apps like Calm or Headspace.
- Take advantage of the increase in online resources for any interest. Attend a virtual dance party or take a museum tour. Follow your local movie theaters, libraries and musicians to learn about other events.
- Many things happening right now are not within our individual control. Focus on what is within your control (the ways you can care for yourself and your community). Remember that this is temporary.
- Make sure to go outside even while practicing social distancing. Sit in the sun. Go for a meandering walk. Notice that the birds are still singing and flowers are starting to bloom in many places.
- Care for your houseplants, or buy a small plant the next time you go out for groceries.
- Take advantage of zoo and aquarium live streaming videos.
- Share photos and videos of your pets and request them from others.
The Division of Student Affairs offers a wide range of programs, events, and initiatives to help students challenge themselves to grow and thrive. Whether you are looking for your home at Mizzou, striving to live sober, seeking health or mental health services, looking for ways to get physically active or looking for ways to live in service to the larger community; we have opportunities for you.
Visit Engage to learn more about events, programs, classes and more to support your well-being and help you find your place at Mizzou.
- Develop a new skill or hobby (try a new recipe, craft or instrument).
- Move your body in ways that feel good (walking, dancing, yoga, biking).
- Practice healthy sleep habits
- Be kind to yourself! Explore Sanvello’s self-care tools.
- Take a mindfulness break every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at noon.
- Mizzou has online workshops on mindfulness, meditation and yoga. Check out stufftodo.missouri.edu for various other ways to stay connected during this time.
- Make a schedule. Set aside specific times for work and relaxation.
- Break down larger projects into manageable tasks. Identify one thing you can do. Try starting with the easiest task to get started, or the hardest task to get it out of the way.
- Set a timer to get started and stay focused. Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Repeat as necessary. If an important idea distracts you, write it down and re-focus.
- Use campus resources: Disability Center, Learning Center, Career Center and Canvas.
Sex can still be safe during COVID-19 by limiting partners, using internal or external condoms or dental dams, agreeing to follow other public health guidelines and having honest conversations.
Sex with yourself, in combination with proper hand-washing, is the best option.
If sexual activity with others was part of your lifestyle before COVID-19, sticking with one partner while following other COVID-19 prevention recommendations is also sensible.
Enjoying sex with only one partner who is also only having sex with you is a safer way to have sex. Even if not emotionally committed or living together, having only one sex partner will reduce your risks.
Learn More: Sex in the Time of COVID-19
In all situations, ongoing open communication and pledging to protect each other and the community by limiting partners and practicing responsible methods are essential. Consider establishing informal social contracts within your group of friends, so that expectations are clear and constantly followed.
Note that you and your social circle may be less concerned about COVID-19 in light of data suggesting individuals 60+ years of age, immunocompromised and/or those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk. However, it is important to understand that you play a key role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 to the larger community by avoiding the virus yourself.
Drinking alcohol will not kill the virus or protect a person from being infected.
Drinking alcohol does increase your risk of contracting COVID-19. From a physiological perspective, alcohol lowers both short-term and long-term immune response, making it harder for the body to defend against viruses like COVID-19.
Many people tend to consume alcohol in social settings such as at bars, restaurants or social gatherings at friends’ houses. These environments reduce social distancing and increase exposure to more people, which will in return increase individual risk of contracting the virus.
Additionally, alcohol can lower your inhibitions so that you are more likely to reduce social distancing and/or engage in activities that you may not otherwise do.
Avoiding alcohol will help you keep a clear head and allow you to make decisions and act quickly to protect yourself and others from exposure. However, if you choose to drink, limit drinks to avoid intoxication, which impairs the ability to think and act quickly.
Avoid alcohol as a social cue for smoking. People often smoke or smoke more when drinking alcohol, and smoking is associated with more complicated and dangerous progression of COVID-19.
Abstaining from social interaction with alcohol or other drugs is the safest. however if you choose to party, please consider maintaining a consistent and tight social circle in which all agree to respect COVID-19 guidelines. This is a great way to support each other and show you care about the larger community. Consider bars and restaurants where outdoor seating and social distancing is available and encouraged. Consider establishing informal social contracts within your group of friends, so that expectations are clear and constantly followed.
Learn more: Alcohol and COVID-19: What You Need to Know.
Since COVID-19 attacks the lungs, individuals who smoke or vape tobacco/nicotine or cannabis may be at higher risk for progression and adverse outcomes if infected. Use of these substances can also lower immune functioning, making risk of infection higher. Additionally, individuals who use opioids (prescription pain medications), may have lower respiratory and pulmonary functioning and could be at increased risk for negative outcomes of COVID-19¹. Here’s how to minimize your risk.
If able, avoid using substances. Substance use can impact physical and mental health, which may be vulnerable during this time.
If you are using a substance, do not share paraphernalia (e-cigs, cigarettes, pipes, etc.) with others as this can increase risk of transmitting COVID-19.
If you use opioids or have a friend or family member who uses, have naloxone (also called Narcan) available in case of overdose.
Naloxone is available without a prescription at most pharmacies and can be paid for out of pocket or with insurance.2
¹ National Institute on Drug Abuse. COVID-19: Potential Implications for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders. March 24 2020.
2 Partners in Prevention. COVID-19: Stay Safe and Healthy. 2020.
- Many communities are creating support networks to take care of one another. Social media and local news sources are great ways to learn about what is happening in your community.
- Check on friends, neighbors, or family who are more vulnerable or having a hard time.
- Donate to local food banks.
- Buy a gift certificate to a local restaurant or small business.
- Donate blood.
- Follow guidelines for prevention. Avoid large gatherings and maintain 6 feet distance with others when possible. Stay home as much as you can. Wash your hands often.
Don’t hesitate to use resources available.
- Tiger Pantry is an on-campus food pantry for students, faculty, and staff. Check their website for updates to their operations during this time.
- Many utility companies will not be charging late fees or turning off utilities. Many internet providers are offering two free months for new customers.
- If you are trans/non-binary and are in need of emergency funds, contact Mizzou’s Gabriella Rosé Justice Support System.
- Many communities have created support networks to take care of one another. Social media and local news sources are good places to look for these.
- For resources specific to your community, the United Way COVID-19 Community Economic Relief Fund can be reached at 1-866-211-9966.