Mental Health

An Occupational Therapist’s Toolkit for Social Distancing


Mental and physical illnesses can disrupt normal everyday activities. Tasks that feel like second nature, such as getting dressed, climbing stairs, eating, and working, aren’t always easy or natural for everyone else. Occupational therapy helps people with illnesses and disabilities recover or learn meaningful everyday activities – or occupations – to regain their independence and function to the best of their ability.

In the midst of this pandemic, many people have lost connection with daily occupations that provide meaning and purpose. As so many things feel out of our control, it can be helpful to engage in mastery-building activities. Here are some resources to help adapt routines that contribute to well-being and meaningful engagement in life.  

Virtual volunteering

  • Volunteering can be done from the comfort of home. With online volunteering options at places like United Nations, you can help out with tasks like writing and editing, translation, and technology services with 12,000 other volunteers. Check out 9 places to volunteer here.
  • Nextdoor is a great resource for staying connected with your neighbors. Use this neighborhood hub to keep up with opportunities to lend a hand within your own neighborhood.

Online courses

  • If you’re interested in learning, Class Central focuses primarily on providing free university courses online. Take classes, explore new subjects or universities, and post reviews on almost any subject. edX and Coursera are also free online options offering courses, certificates, and degrees.
  • freeCodeCamp is a nonprofit organization that provides tutorials on web development. Learn to code, start new projects, and earn certifications for free with over 5,000+ tutorials.
  • Scholastic is offering learning options for students to work on at home. Current offerings include courses for students from PreK through grades 6 and up. 

Physical activity 

  • Les Mills has guidance, training, and support to keep your training up at home with 800 free workouts available online.
  • Even if you don’t have the bike, Peloton has extended its free trial offer to 90 days, providing running, strength, toning, cycling, yoga, meditation and outdoor workouts.
  • Planet Fitness is offering livestream “work-ins” you can do right from your living room.

Spirituality and meditation

  • Many churches, synagogues, and temples have switched to streaming their services online. Check out the websites or Facebook pages of your local place of worship. 
  • Headspace is offering free meditations to help people through this time of crisis. These offerings include guided meditations, stories, soundscapes, and music that can help you sleep.

Virtual recovery meetings

  • Social distancing can make it harder to prioritize your recovery. The Rooms and Token Shop are both online communities offering weekly virtual meetings for those recovering from substance abuse. 

New skills

  • Explore online classes that will nurture your creative side and help you learn something new. Projects on websites like Skillshare aim to inspire users to try their hand at different hobbies like photography, videography, illustration, and more through downloadable classes led by real teachers. 
  • For a more collaborative online community, Instructables is a forum to discuss do-it-yourself projects with other members. You can upload step-by-step instructions for your own projects to share with others.

Meal planning and cooking

  • Kitchn Cooking School sends you 20 cooking lessons in 20 days to learn the basics of preparing food at your own pace. 
  • For more advanced and innovative recipes, explore Online Cooking School, a site that hosts 230+ courses and offers a free trial.
  • The Mealime app helps you organize meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking all in one place.
  • Merritt Clubs created a nutrition and wellness guide, which includes tips on nutrition and grocery shopping and working out at home. 

Social connection

  • Social interaction is an important component of mental health. Hang out with friends virtually and host a Netflix Party – a Chrome extension that allows you to watch movies with friends with synchronized video playback and a group chat feature. 
  • Video chat to stay in touch with your friends and family. Download Zoom, WhatsApp, or FaceTime to get that social connection while practicing physical distancing.