coronavirus outbreak

San Diegans Take the Social-Distance Challenge

An upside to pandemic protection: Spending time with loved ones and finding new ways to connect

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We're less than a week into some of the most drastic measures begun in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic's outbreak in America, and like the rest of the U.S., San Diegans are struggling with social distancing and attempting to do their part to "flatten the curve."

Staying six feet apart from others may not sound like a lot but it can be physically problematic. A simple walk down the street can involve multiple infractions for by-the-book social distancers. From standing in a line to walking down the aisle of a grocery store, most people are trying to keep their distance and trying to listen to government leaders and doctors.

"It's creating this angst in us to just want to get out," said Gary Lafreniere, who was outside on Thursday near Lake Miramar, where it was quieter than normal.

His daugher, Elise, a student, said it wasn't hard to figure out what she missed the most.

"My friends and just kind of going to school and having something to do during the day," Lafreniere said. "Like, all of my friends, we talk on our phones, but it's just not the same. I think it's easy to realize now that it's not an option anymore."

Decades of cultural norms are getting tossed aside overnight.

"It's kind of funny: I went out and got takeout pizza to support local businesses and found myself like, 'I'm gonna walk this way" -- you walk that way," Gary said.

Clinical psychologist Jodi Tompkins said extroverts are likely having a tough time. She is urging her clients to focus on what they can control, such as calling a friend instead of texting, and looking for meaning and purpose through helping others.

"I think a huge part is knowing what is self-care for each person," Tompkins said. "Is it taking a walk, is it spending time to enjoy a sunset, enjoying nature? Is it reaching out to a neighbor?"

Tompkins, however, said that even something as bad as we're going through right now can have its upside.

"We're actually spending more time together right now and not running in different directions -- or even the same direction doing things; we're actually forced to have a conversation, and teenagers are forced to spend a little more time with family," Tompkins said.

As more people turn to creative social media events like home-networking cocktail hours and sing-along dance parties, they're learning how to adapt while also learning just how much we took being together for granted.

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