In the times we are living in, social distancing has become more than a choice out of not wanting to get sick-it is a moral responsibility. sadly, this has devastating impacts on our emotions-particularly if you already struggle with mental health.
Unfortunately, as you may already know, human beings are social creatures. We are biologically programed to need constant interaction from others-physical touch. Hugging, kissing, laughing, non-digital face to face with humans has been scientifically shown to increase happiness, and decrease anxiety (Source). Interacting with other people isn’t a want, it is a need. Seclusion can cause spiraling thoughts towards negativity, isolation and even depression. Feeling alone is a terrible feeling, and we don’t have much of a choice, do we?
how to reduce the negative effects of social distancing
Because of what has been going on, I have been feeling lonely a lot of the time. I haven’t been able to see the people close to me outside of my family, and this has been affecting me greatly. I’ve realized that it is perfectly okay to wake up and feel sad. Unmotivated. Lonely, and tired of it all. This has been happening to me a lot recently, and I’ve tried to fight it. But sometimes, you just have to accept the fact that this sucks. And you are not the only person dealing with these emotions. Everyone out there is handling this differently, and we all need to be compassionate right now. Sometimes you don’t want to get all jazzed up for a home-workout, Tik toks about quarantine are getting old, and the fact that we can’t go anywhere actually pisses you off. That is okay. I recommend you just feel the emotion and let it sit, instead of trying to suppress it. It is normal.
With the above being said, I am going to highlight some of the things I do when I get in one of those moods where I’m feeling down because of isolation. Hopefully some of these can be applied to your own life if you feel lonely and sad during this time.
go on walks or try other activities with your family
Staying cooped up at home all day is not good for us. I find that getting outside every day for a brisk walk with my family and puppy is very helpful because it kills two birds with one stone…I have social interaction with the people I love, I get some exercise, and I can enjoy the fresh air/nature around me.
try journaling, meditating, or yoga to feel more comfortable being alone
You may have never spent this much time being alone. I don’t think I have. The irony is that I usually I do not mind spending time alone… I cherish my “alone time” to purely partake in the activities I know I enjoy. But there is definitely a concept of too much alone time, which I personally am feeling. Because of this, I think it is important to get comfortable being alone with your thoughts. So many of us are on auto-pilot all day-doing, doing, doing- that we never truly listen or understand the voice in our heads. That is why sometimes when you have a busy day and so much happens, then you finally get into bed, your mind continues to race no matter how tired you are. It is because you haven’t had time to literally just sit and process. I highly recommend meditating, journaling or doing yoga because it allows you to listen to your thoughts, meet yourself where you are currently at, and step out of all the hustle/bustle for a bit of time.
facetime your friends and take advantage of virtual meetings
We are all very fortunate that with technology nowadays, we can reach others with the tap of a finger. I recommend weekly Facetimes with your friends if you cannot spend time with them in person. Call people and tell them you love them/hope they are safe. It is important to do our best to stay connected in a time of deep disconnect. Zoom is awesome for group video conferencing, and I know my work place is taking advantage of this as well. Every day we open up Zoom rooms for people to join, not necessarily as a formal meeting, but in case you just wanted to jump on and chat while working (as if you were in the office).
try a hobby, or an activity you like but never have time to do
Now is also a great time to carve out time for that hobby you’ve been putting off-like cooking, reading, drawing, singing, whatever it is. For me, I love to cook. I find it so peaceful and kind of mind-numbing, but since most nights with work I do not get home until 7-7:30pm, I could never cook. However with working from home and hanging around the house, I have time to find healthy recipes, buy the ingredients and cook for myself, which I really missed. I have also been organizing my room, cleaning out old stuff, sorting through clothes, those sort of tasks that are nice to get done, but are easily pushed off for bigger priority things. It is the perfect time to declutter your space and become re-inspired within your living situation.
These are just some general tips for ways to cope with this situation, but to be honest with you guys, there are some days where I just don’t feel like dealing with all of this. I’m unmotivated and feel extremely frustrated. I just want to let you know that it is okay to feel these things and it is pointless to pretend like we’re always doing perfectly fine. I keep telling myself that this is going to get better, and I look at it within the broader scope. I am fortunate enough to have a job right now, while keeping my distance at home and staying safe. There are hundreds and thousands of people right now who are on the front-lines of this battle, constantly needing to keep their guards up. I’m thinking of the essential business employees-obviously healthcare employees, but also grocery store workers, pharmacists, those who do deliveries. Reflecting on this fact and counting your blessings each day can not be underestimated.