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How to Find Connections and Community While Practicing Social Distancing in N.H.

Photo Courtesy of Todd Bookman
NHPR's Todd Bookman is making time to decompress by learning to paint. Read on for more ideas on how to manage stress and stay connected.

Things are feeling pretty heavy right now. Whether you are practicing social distancing at home, caring for a loved one who is ill or trying to make sense of an uncertain and fast-evolving public health crisis — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. 

At NHPR, our news team has been working around the clock to make sure we’re bringing you the urgent news you need to know about COVID-19. But we also realize that many of you might be feeling isolated, worried or just in need of a pick-me-up.

That’s why — inspired by another local news outlet a few states away — we rounded up this list of ideas on how to give back or connect with your community while practicing safe social distancing. For each of these ideas, we tried to think locally, taking advantage of resources found right here in the Granite State or the surrounding region.

To stay informed on important updates about COVID-19 in New Hampshire, follow NHPR’s ongoing news coverage here. You can also turn to the state’s COVID-19 website, which has more information on steps you can take to protect yourself and those around you. And for advice on how to cope with fear and anxiety around COVID-19, we also recommend this guide from the CDC or this one from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

(If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19, or just want to let us how it's affecting you or your community, we want to hear more. Please share your thoughts with us here.)

Here are a few more ideas on how to find some joy or connection, even if you can't physically gather with others in your community right now:

  • Consider giving blood, if you are able. You can find local drives and more information on how to donate through the Red Cross.
  • Distract yourself by watching standup by hometown comedians like Adam Sandler.
  • Bored of singing “Happy Birthday” while washing your hands? You could try memorizing a poem by Robert Frost.

Are you seeing something else happening in your community that you’d like more people to know about? Let us know at webteam@nhpr.org, and we might add it to this post.

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Another way to destress? Ask your colleagues, families and friends for advice. We were inspired by the NPR Arts Desk to check in with the NHPR news team as to how they’re coping, and they not only gave us ideas to steal for ourselves, but it helped us feel more connected while we've all been apart! 

Todd Bookman, General Assignment Reporter: “My wife is teaching me how to paint. It is stress free and enjoyable. I call this one [the photo featured at the top of this post] Podcast Studio.”

Jason Moon, Health Reporter: “I've been playing my keyboard/piano a lot. Figure I might as well use all this indoor time to get good at something. I've been brushing up on the pieces I learned in college, like Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca. I'm also writing some of my own music — and not for a podcast this time! My goal is to write a new piece each weekend as a kind of music documentary project of this stressful time. Here's the first one, which I think captures the mood (at least my mood) of the first few weeks of the outbreak. Hoping subsequent entries can be a bit lighter…”

Mary McIntyre, Morning Edition producer: “Mediation! Even just pausing for some breathing exercises... I know it’s a buzzy thing right now, but it really works!  To be honest, also just hugging/taking breaks with my dog makes me feel a lot better.” 

Daniela Allee, Upper Valley Reporter: “I like to find rural dirt roads and run without my headphones in. Does this qualify? Because honestly, running is the one thing keeping me sane at the moment. Also listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s comfort song of the day.”

Cori Princell, Managing Editor: “For me it’s yoga. Yoga has gotten me through so many things.  I start every day with a very small yoga practice so I can be sure it always happens, and now I’m starting my kids’ home school day with this yoga program we discovered in the UK.  My back and neck are a mess sitting at my home desk feeling stressed for hours, and yoga pulls that stress out of my body. Then I play my yoga music and mantras while I’m doing the dishes and keep it on all evening.  I don’t have much time with this crazy job, my partner’s career, and two little kids, but that’s how I’m fitting in what I need.”

Peter Biello, All Things Considered Host: “My girlfriend and I have been STRESS COOKING. So far, the sweet stuff: chocolate mousse, chocolate chip cookies, and homemade blueberry pop tarts. Also we’ve made homemade pasta twice (fettuccini, then butternut squash ravioli). Tonight, we’re doing Rice Krispie treats. I will diet when this is over.”

Sarah Gibson, Education Reporter: “I’m trying to finally learn guitar chords, but specifically the F chord. It’s hard! And I’ve never had time to practice! And reading plays out loud at home with my roommate.”

Alex McOwen, All Things Considered Intern: "I do a virtual book club with one of my friends back in Chicago. We’ve always done book club over the phone because of our geographic distance, so it’s the perfect social-isolation stress relief activity. Right now we’re reading Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. It’s a thriller novel, so all the craziness happening in the book really helps distract from the craziness happening out in the real world. Plus, it’s around 700 pages, so it provides hours of quarantine-time entertainment!”

Dan Tuohy, Digital Engagement Producer: “For me, I’ve enjoyed cooking. I made pulled pork in the slow cooker yesterday and it was freaking delicious. I’ve got a carrot and potato soup to make next. It’s relaxing.”

Lauren Chooljian, Politics and Policy Reporter: “Puzzles. 100 percent. Especially the ones made by White Mountain Puzzles in Jackson. They’re a source of great comfort because my family does them together during slower times, like the holidays or summer weekends at my grandfather’s camp. Also puzzles are so addicting, or at least, I think they are, so they provide me with hours of distraction from stress and/or existential angst. And if I’ve got a glass of wine or a gin and tonic within reach, all the better.” 

Annie Ropiek, Energy and Environment Reporter: “We just bought a Nintendo switch and Mario Kart/Super Smash Brothers with the money refunded from an upcoming trip! I’m also getting a lot better at knitting and I’ve been keeping some nature webcam livestream open on my second monitor while I work. Today it’s the highlights reel from the Katmai bears… yesterday, it was Monterey Bay Aquarium. My fiance and I are also rewatching Gossip Girl, but we were already doing that…” 

Casey McDermott, Data and Investigative Reporter/Editor: “Cooking! Whether it’s improvising with a packet of instant ramen or working on more involved recipe like these braised short ribs, it’s one of the only things that gets me off of my phone — and my mind off the news — for an extended period of time. Shows like Salt Fat Acid Heat with Samin Nosrat, Ugly Delicious with David Chang and (while not necessarily food-related, still every bit as nourishing in its own way) Parks and Recreation are the cinematic equivalent of comfort food for me. Another one of my go-to stress relievers: dogs. Not IRL, unfortunately, given the limitations of my current living situation. But I challenge anyone skeptical of the restorative power of a puppy photo to spend a few minutes perusing the adorable profiles on the Great Dog Rescue New England’s Facebook page.”