While some have dodged the COVID-19 diagnosis, most of us are caught in another pandemic: isolation.
Since March of 2020, COVID has created a dizzying game of 6-feet apart interactions, masked errands, Zoom work meetings, the cancelation of most if not all social gatherings, and a crushing game of risk and sanity. This year has been all about survival.
And no one is exempt from this challenge. In response to the great unknown of COVID, we went from the consistency of commutes and workplaces to makeshift offices in our bedrooms or living spaces while our children stare at computer and iPad screens as replacements for teachers and classroom peers. Each person (young or old) is feeling the effects of this persistent state of isolation.
The words, ‘isolation’ and ‘loneliness’ are often used interchangeably but are distinctly different. COVID guidelines forced each of us into a state of true isolation — meaning the removal of ourselves from contact with others. Loneliness, on the other hand, is the subjective feeling of being alone.
What is vital to note is that isolation is not a healthy state for human beings, regardless of personality differences.
Proximity to others signals safety and, according to a Health Affairs article by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, our brain and bodies respond to a state of heightened alert when we lack proximity to trusted others. She states that this can result in increased stress hormones, blood pressure and even inflammatory responses — which creates increased risk for a variety of chronic illnesses. Surges in substance abuse, mental health concerns and domestic violence have already been recorded. According to preliminary surveys, within the first month of COVID alone, emotional distress tripled and loneliness increased by 20-30 percent.
While telehealth (virtual) counseling is a great solution to maintaining mental health during this time, another key to curing the issues surrounding isolation is finding healthy ways to connect with humans. In the current climate, creativity is a must.
Below are five ways to beat the ‘Isolation Game’ and develop connection during this difficult time:
Tip #1 — Go on a Walk
It’s surprising how much our perspective can alter with a healthy dose of sunshine and the opportunity to greet neighbors even with just a wave. Putting on your shoes is always the hardest part. Set an alarm on your phone and layer up if needed — but don’t miss a daily opportunity for some Vitamin D.
Tip #2 — Celebrate Virtually
Many of us have missed milestones, births, weddings, and more because of Covid — but how about creating an online party just because? Send a text invite, then take it as an excuse to make your favorite food, craft your favorite beverage and celebrate the people in your life over Zoom. Talk about the highs and lows of life but keep it light and have fun.
Tip #3 — Join a Parenting Support Group
Parenting has taken an entirely new meaning with quarantine and social distancing in effect. It has not been easy for anyone, and parents can feel stressed and frustrated by the new unique challenges. Join a Support Group that creates connections and provides some much needed social interactions with people outside of your home.
Tip #4 — Launch a Book Club
Many of us are feeling the void of deep human connection that face to face conversation brings. What about starting a book club to initiate some good conversations? Keep it easy, a book every month or two, and generate simple questions to get it going. Not only will a Book Club create opportunities for virtual connection, but reading is a great way to treat yourself to some much-needed self-care.
Tip #5 — Self Assessment
Take a moment to do a self-check on how isolation has affected you. Ask yourself:
- Am I restless? Am I irritable? Do I lack patience?
- Do I have decreased motivation? Difficulty concentrating?
- Do I feel hopeless? Do I persistently feel sad or depressed?
- Am I having trouble sleeping? Difficulty waking up?
- The Columbia Treatment Center also created an online test to help you assess your current state of mind. Take the online quiz here.
Finding connection amidst isolation is critical for you and your loved ones’ mental wellbeing. If you are looking for additional support to get started on the pursuit of health during this difficult time, give us a call to explore teletherapy options. We’re here to support you!GET IN TOUCH WITH US
Or, call our friendly team at 410-730-1333.