How We’re Physical Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

physical distancing on trails

You can still get outside when you physically distance

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, when social distancing was still new to most of us. Since then, much has changed, including:

The terminology

Many have suggested that we now use the term ‘physical distancing’ because it’s more obvious and clear than ‘social distancing’.

The awareness

Thankfully, it seems that most people are finally understanding and taking physical distancing to heart… which would make this post seem to be a lot less necessary.

However, as evidenced by the masses of #COVIDIOTS who continue to ignore pleas (orders, even) to stay home, it’s important for all of us to keep driving the message home.

That’s why I’ve decided to publish this post anyway—even though it’s getting out a week later than I’d wanted. (Pandemic prep and self-isolation have proven to be very time-consuming!)


I’m not a doctor, medical professional, or trained expert. I’m just a regular person who’s spent far too much time learning about COVID-19.

The info here is based on my own research and personal experience. My intention is to share my take on the COVID-19 pandemic and our own physical distancing efforts.

While every attempt has been made to be accurate, the info here is for your interest only.

Flattening the curve

As COVID-19 cases continue to mount, most countries have shifted from containing the virus to ‘flattening the curve’:

800px Covid 19 curves graphic2 stopthespread v3

Graphic by Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris via The Spinoff, licensed under CC-BY-SA

Basically, we need to slow the spread of the virus so our medical systems can cope and not become overwhelmed.

How each of us can help

Many of us have felt helpless and frustrated during these trying times. Our governments and politicians don’t seem to move fast enough. We don’t have the equipment and skills to help the sick.

But there is one crucial way we can all help. It’s called physical distancing, and it’s the single most powerful way to flatten out that curve. 

What is physical distancing?

Physical distancing is an effective way to stop or slow the spread of an infectious disease. Generally, physical distancing incorporates these points:

  • Avoid physical contact with others.
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Avoid large gatherings.
  • Keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) between yourself and others.

Why do we have to do this?

We can’t wait for our governments to tell us to practice physical distancing. We need to start doing it now and keep doing it for as long as is needed. Here’s why:

  • It’s clear that we can no longer contain the coronavirus.
  • We need to shift our focus to flattening the curve (that is, slowing the spread).
  • If we spread out the cases, we’re helping to take pressure off our medical systems.
  • This gives medical staff time to prepare, restock, rest and recover.
  • It also gives manufacturers time to increase production of medical and protective equipment.
  • Researchers will have more time to develop and test treatments and vaccines.
  • Until safe, effective treatments and vaccines can be widely distributed, physical distancing is our best weapon against COVID-19.

How to physical distance

“Stay home, save lives” is the most basic way to explain physical distancing. More specifically, that includes measures such as:

  • Working from home.
  • Holding virtual meetups and meetings.
  • Closing schools.
  • Cancelling large gatherings (yes—even birthday parties and weddings).
  • Cancelling travel plans (including local trips).
  • Shopping online.
  • Ordering groceries online for delivery or pickup.
  • Shopping early in the morning or late at night.
  • Sending only one person in the household to shop.
  • Making lists to minimize the number of shopping trips.
  • Shopping once a week or less.
  • Ordering takeout or delivery.
  • Avoiding peak hours on public transit.

This graphic shows the powerful effect of individual choices to physically distance:

800px Covid 19 Transmission graphic 01

Graphic by Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris via The Spinoff, licensed under CC-BY-SA

How we’re physical distancing

As my regular readers know, we made the tough decision to cancel our trip to Japan earlier this month. I didn’t realize it then, but it was an important physical distancing measure. 

By not traveling, we took away hundreds of potential points of close physical contact. And in doing so, we kept ourselves and many, many others healthy and safe.

Little did we know—this was only the beginning of our physical distancing measures.

Stepping up our vigilance

It’s incredible how quickly things changed. We went from feeling totally safe in Canada to realizing we needed to shut things down NOW.

On March 13, the last day of school in Vancouver, we decided to escalate our distancing with the following measures:

  • Cancelled our trip to Vancouver Island (which was meant to cheer us up after cancelling our trip to Japan.)
  • Cancelled plans to hang out with friends (even with other ‘safe’ families—because no one is ‘safe’).
  • Cancelled and turned down playdates and sleepovers.
  • Cancelled our weekly dinners with our parents and M’s grandma.
  • Cancelled plans to hike with my sister and her family. (There would be too many of us, which would make it challenging to physically distance from each other and other people.)
  • Set up M to work from home indefinitely. (Personally, I think it’ll be months before we can let up on our physical distancing efforts.)
  • Bought enough food and supplies to avoid having to shop for another week or two. (But we didn’t overdo it, so as to leave enough for everyone.)
  • Stopped all non-essential trips to indoor public places (banks, stores, restaurants, etc.)
  • Stopped walking on paths and other outdoor spaces that don’t allow for safe physical distancing at all times.
  • Stopped allowing anyone outside of our household to pet or walk Mika.
  • Stopped allowing Mika to get close to or play with other dogs. (While there’s little proof that dogs can pass on the virus, they’re essentially high-touch surfaces. To me, it just makes sense to keep Mika from rubbing up against other dogs.)

How we’ve kept ourselves busy 

It hasn’t been easy following these strict physical distancing measures. We miss our family, friends, and normal activities.

But we know this is necessary and it’s how we can do our part. Fortunately, we’ve also learned that physical distancing doesn’t have to be lonely and boring!

Here are some of the ways we’ve been keeping ourselves busy while also maintaining our physical, mental, and emotional health:

Outdoor activities

physical distancing mika walks

Mika still gets her three daily walks, even as we physically distance ourselves

When physical distancing, you still can (and should) get outdoors* because it’s good for your mental and physical health. Here are some of the ways we’ve responsibly taken advantage of Vancouver’s sunny spring weather:

  • Continued to walk Mika three times a day (30 minutes with me in the morning; 60+ minutes with the whole family in the afternoon; 20 minutes with M at night).
  • Walked in quiet parks and trails.
  • Explored new neighborhoods on foot.
  • Picnicked (just the four of us) at a local park.
  • Played basketball in the backyard.
  • Played with Mika in the backyard.
  • Worked on Mika’s recall training in the house and in the backyard.
  • Walked to the corner store to pick up a few staples (helping to support small local businesses during this tough time).

*There are some caveats: If you’re sick, don’t go out. Instead, you should self-isolate according to official guidelines. Also, stick to places that allow you to maintain 6 feet of distance from others at all times.

Indoor projects


Mmm… frittata! M now has the time to whip up yummy breakfasts for himself and the boys every morning

Since we live in Raincouver, we can’t always expect the weather to stay sunny and dry. When we’re inevitably stuck indoors, we’ve thought of some fun activities to do together and on our own:

  • Cook/bake more (including new dishes that we’ve always wanted to try).
  • Work on time-intensive projects like this Metal Earth helicopter or this paper Millennium Falcon (both of which we received as gifts, but haven’t had time to complete).
  • Clean and organize the house.
  • Mend and repair things.
  • Photograph things to be listed on Craigslist. (But we’ll have to post them later—I doubt anyone will be wanting to buy things right now.)
  • Blog and podcast (just me).
  • Write stories (Kid 1).
  • Homeschool. (Be sure to listen to our recent Explore FI Canada episode for homeschooling tips and ideas. Also—check out the show notes for 175+ homeschooling resources).
  • Teach the boys basic life skills (money management, cooking, laundry, cleaning, home repairs, etc.)

Lazy activities

physical distancing puzzle

Puzzles are a perfect way to pass the time as a family

We’ll also have times where we just want to veg out and do nothing. Here are some activities which we’re already enjoying (and will likely do more of, now that the rain has returned):

  • Play board and card games.
  • Work on a puzzle.
  • Read books.
  • Build LEGO.
  • Catch up on shows and movies.
  • Play video games.
  • Watch YouTube videos (to learn new things or just for mindless entertainment).

Maintaining our social connections

physical distancing zoom with family

Our first Zoom meetup with my siblings and their families

I’ve never appreciated messaging and video conferencing apps as much as I have these last two weeks! These platforms have allowed us to maintain our connections with family and friends by:

  • Having dinner together on Zoom—so we can still have the occasional meal together.
  • Video calling with FaceTime, Whatsapp, and Zoom.
  • Playing online games, such as Drawful 2, which the boys can play with their cousins remotely.
  • Watching shows and movies together using Netflix Party. (We haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds so cool!)
  • Sharing articles, photos and videos with each other more often.

We’re also maintaining our connections in non-digital ways:

  • Catching up with family and friends with good old-fashioned phone calls.
  • Taking walks (while 6 feet apart) with M’s parents on quiet neighbourhood streets.
  • Chatting with neighbours as we bump into them during our walks (again, while 6 feet apart).
  • Picking up and dropping off groceries for our parents and other older relatives.

Other physical distancing ideas

  • My friend Ana at Goat Dog Simple published some recent posts to share how she and her family are whiling away the time as they physically distance:
  • Angela at Tread Lightly Retire Early lives in Kirkland, Washington—the first epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the US. She and her family have been physical distancing for longer than most of us, and she’s written several posts related to the pandemic, including:

How we’re doing so far

As of this posting, we’ve been physical distancing for 14 days. That means for the last two weeks, we haven’t seen any of our friends, and have only seen a handful of family members. (Albeit at a distance, and always outdoors).

To be honest, it’s not been easy. We’re very close to our families, and we miss hanging out with them in the ways we were used to. It’s also hard not seeing our friends as we normally would. 

But we know this needs to happen, and the more stringent we are with our distancing, the better the outcome. I’ll write more about how we’re doing in my update posts (coming as soon as I have time to get to them). 

For now, I’ll just say we’re making the best of it, and we’re finding our new normal. And overall, it’s not so bad. 🙂

physical distancing neighbourhood walks

We may not be able to have dinner with M’s parents, but we can still take physical-distanced walks with them

What about you?

Have you decided how you’ll pass the time as you physically distance? Are you enjoying the slower pace, or are you already wondering how you’ll make it?!! Let me know below.

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  • Reply
    March 28, 2020 at 8:19 am

    Thank you Chrissy for getting the word out and the details that are clear and concise. My husband & I are in the vulnerable age group 70+ and we are practicing everything on your list. This too shall pass as we have seen in past crises.

    • Reply
      March 28, 2020 at 10:57 pm

      TNT—thank you for being part of the fight against this terrible virus. Yes, you are in one of the most vulnerable age groups.

      But you’re also helping to keep younger ones healthy, and preventing our medical workers from becoming overwhelmed, sick and burnt out. Thank you for doing your part.

      And you’re right that this too shall pass—absolutely. Please stay safe!

  • Reply
    March 28, 2020 at 8:30 am

    It’s crazy how just two weeks ago, anyone who cancelled a party or social date was considered “paranoid”, and now, it’s just part of the norm. Adam and I are particularly struggling today, as Los Angeles sent out a mass alert late last night notifying us that all our beaches, bike paths, and hiking trails were closed. Those outdoor activities (which we’ve been doing solo or just the two of us) have been our life-saver these past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, every time I went out for a run I was seeing massive groups, especially of young people, hanging out, hugging, playing volleyball, even sharing drinks. If only everyone could have followed the advice of our law makers earlier on, it could have preserved some outdoor sanity for the rest of us!

    • Reply
      March 28, 2020 at 11:05 pm

      LiveHardxLoveHard—it’s incredible how quickly things went from safe and okay to locked down. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had further restrictions in Los Angeles.

      Getting outside, into nature and other beautiful areas, is so important and needed for many of us. Having that taken away is a bitter pill to swallow—especially when it’s due to a small minority who won’t follow the orders.

      But you and Adam are so resilient and resourceful. I’m sure you’ll soon find other ways to enjoy your time outdoors.

      Stay strong—we will fight off this virus together. ❤️

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    March 28, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Great list and I love your choice of graphics. We are lucky that I can (or rather now have to) work from home. As that is not possible for hubby he is the one who now gets the groceries and anything else we may need. The little one and I are fully isolating. We tried seeing my parents from afar but it was too hard for the little one. She just wanted to be with them and I had to hold her back. We will just have to focus on online meetups now for the next foreseeable future.

    We can and will get through this. The more we do now the quicker it will be. Thanks for continuing to spread awareness Chrissy.

    • Reply
      March 28, 2020 at 11:14 pm

      Maria—I can see how hard it would be for your little one to not go near her grandparents. It must be so confusing for her and hard for your parents as well.

      Yes, we can and will get through this. And yes, the more we do now, the quicker it’ll be over. Let’s keep fighting the battle and encouraging others to follow suit.

      Be safe, my friend!

  • Reply
    March 28, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    Thank you for social distancing and taking this seriously. So many have not understood or heeded the direction to physically distance. In my workplace of a community pharmacy, customers have abused us for asking them to stand behind ‘the line’ – they are offended that we would ask them, they who have been coming to the pharmacy for more than 20 years etc etc. We now have PVC screens on all counters and wear badges that say ‘Social distancing 1.5m’. But it is difficult sometimes in a pharmacy where confidentiality is paramount – you wouldn’t me discussing your vaginal thrush 1.5m away

    • Reply
      March 28, 2020 at 11:24 pm

      Latestarterfire—I get so upset when I hear of frontline workers being treated badly for trying to do the right thing.

      I honestly can’t understand people’s refusal to respect social/physical distancing. We ALL need to do it, for all of our sakes.

      It must be tricky to adhere to the distancing in the situation you’ve described—yeesh. That’s not an easy one to navigate. 🙁

      Thank you for the comment, for respecting physical distancing, and for being out there on the frontlines.

      You’re one of our superheros right now! I hope more people start to “get it” in your community and start treating you and your colleagues better.

  • Reply
    March 29, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Chrissy, your information, especially the graphs, is fantastic. We all have to do our part or risk prolonging this till who knows when. My kids start school online tomorrow and I’m happy that they’ll have contact again with their teachers. Not quite the same but they’re missing their school life and friends. I’ll take whatever little bit of normal we can get. It’s unreal how so much has changed in a matter of days.

    Thank you for the mention in your post. I’m looking for ways to enjoy my family’s time together so we don’t strangle each other! Stay well 🙂

    • Reply
      April 2, 2020 at 11:06 pm

      Ana—it certainly is unreal how much all of our lives have changed in such a short time. Let’s all keep doing the right things, and hope for the best as we wait out this storm. I think we have a long, bumpy road ahead. 🙁

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