What To Do When Other People Around You Aren’t Observing Social Distancing Guidelines

As scientists continue the search for a vaccine for COVID-19, the best way to fight the disease is to follow social distancing. But many people have been either failing to follow or intentionally ignoring the approach to help slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

It can be frustrating to be that person who follows safety measures from health experts and governments but surrounded by people who do what you have been told to avoid. That is the case of Seth Gillihan, a clinical psychologist, and his family. 

Keeping a distance, wearing masks and practicing good hygiene could help in the fight against COVID-19. But Gillihan said they have encountered people who were less careful in public places.  

“While the majority of Americans seem to understand the need to limit contact with others to slow the spread of the coronavirus, people vary widely in their social distancing practices,” Gillihan, who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based interventions, said in an article posted on WebMD. “Maybe you wear a face mask religiously in public, while many around you go maskless. Or maybe some people seem oblivious to the six-foot distance guidelines that you faithfully observe.”

The challenges to follow social distancing guidelines also occur within the family. Your spouse may not take it as seriously as you do or the kids in the house think that you are freaking out for no reason.

There are ways to guide people around you to understand the importance of social distancing and other safety measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The first step is to think about your approach to avoid a violent reaction and exposure to the virus. 

Maintain a gap between you and the other person and stay calm. There have been cases of confrontations that led to violence in public, which could put those involved at risk of catching the coronavirus. 

Yelling alone may release droplets carrying the virus into the air and cause your exposure. If you are in a restaurant, grocery store or clinic, you should contact those who are responsible for the place, such as the manager.

Think Why They Failed To Practice Physical Distancing

Other people might be failing to keep distance or wear masks because they have a different understanding of risk and of the need to take precautions. These could make them think they are actually being careful.

For example, a friend thinks it is okay to get close to you in the grocery store because you are both wearing masks. Knowing the real reason behind their behavior may help you speak calmly and rationally. 

Know What You Can Control

It can be difficult to encourage everyone to follow recommended guidelines to avoid COVID-19. It can lead to frustration and increase your stress levels. 

Gillihan said that you look at what you can control. One way is to avoid going to public spaces in the most busy times of day.

“Remind yourself of the value of accepting the limits of what you can control. This requires a deep level of acceptance, which doesn’t mean resignation,” Gillihan said. “You can care about this issue a great deal, even as you acknowledge that your control is limited.”

Social Distancing Social distancing sign in London. GoToVan/flickr

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