The pandemic Covid-19 has taught us many things. The new challenges it has created are baffling everyone – from individuals and families to societies and the world as a whole. And, dealing with social isolation is one of them.
As you must be aware, social distancing is one of the vital and essential steps to follow to contain the coronavirus. As always, everything has consequences.
Even though social distancing is critical to bring the pandemic under control, it comes with negative fallouts. As this prevents us from meeting family, friends, or even familiar or unfamiliar faces and interacting with people face-to-face, we have to deal with the kind of loneliness we have never experienced before.
The worst thing is we have no clue how to deal with this forced loneliness. Even as we grapple with our fear of being infected and for many, the tricky financial situation resulting from loss of livelihood, isolation anxiety can make matters worse.
Learning how to deal with isolation-induced loneliness is imperative for our mental health. This article offers you ideas about how to cope with social isolation forced on us by the current pandemic.
How do anxiety and social isolation affect us?
Irrespective of who you are – your gender, age, location, social status, or financial security – the forced pandemic isolation will affect your mental health and consequently your physical health. Honing your coping skills is not a choice anymore; it is the only way forward. It is essential for survival.
All these years, you grew up believing that social connection is vital for your survival. We have taught ourselves the need to trust and depend on one another for comfort and support. So, it is natural that you feel sad and depressed when you have to follow social distancing.
The first casualty of forced loneliness is mental health. It may lead to:
- Disturbed sleep or sleeplessness
- Loss of appetite or inability to control eating
- Increased levels of anxiety and stress
- Difficulty to focus on the task at hand
- Low immunity levels
- Alcohol abuse
- Child abuse and domestic violence
- Mental health disorders like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and various personality disorders
- Self-neglect and loss of interest in life
- Suicidal thoughts
- Suicidal attempts
The suicidal thoughts and attempts are the worst-case scenarios and maybe the compounded effect of already existing mental health conditions like schizophrenia, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The consequent effect on physical health is also devastating. This can worsen already existing health conditions like coronary diseases, diabetes, and blood pressure.
However, it has become hard to predict how a person will be affected by the loneliness forced by social distancing.
How to cope with isolation?
The first step in coping with the loneliness of social distancing is accepting and acknowledging its presence. This would be half the battle won.
On the other hand, if you ignore or keep it hidden, telling yourself and the rest of the world that all is well, you are in for serious trouble. So, if you recognize any of the signs listed above, do a reality check and admit at least to yourself that you need help.
As long as the severity of your symptoms is within the manageable range, you can try some of these self-help suggestions. If at any point, you feel your efforts are not working or things look like they are getting out of hand, don’t hesitate to share your concerns with someone close to you. If need be, get professional help. Remember that timely help can save your life and the lives of your dear ones.
1. Acknowledge how you feel
As pointed out earlier, this is the first step towards normalcy. When there is no one to talk to or no one to notice the aberrations in your behavior, it is easy to ignore the feelings. In fact, you should take better care of yourself when you are alone and struggling. Occasionally do a fact check about your mental health.
2. Connect with nature
When there are restrictions in place for movement, this would be hard to put into practice. At least when the Covid-19 situation improves and restraints are lifted, you should take the opportunity to get out. Social distancing may prevent you from visiting or meeting family and friends. But you can always take a walk in the park or go for a jog. Take up activities that are allowed in your area to get closer to nature. This can help soothe your nerves and calm you down.
3. Take up hobbies
Rekindle old hobbies or discover new interests. There must be a list of things you always wanted to do but never had the time for. This is the opportunity for that. Doing something you love and are passionate about can divert your focus away from the stress and worries of the pandemic.
4. Practice self-care
Maybe you never had to think about caring for yourself earlier because you had never faced a similar situation. New circumstances demand adjustment in your approach and attitude. Learn to look out for signs of trouble and be willing to take action without delay. Often, health problems, whether mental or physical, are easier to manage if they are attended to immediately. Allowing things to get worse can be detrimental.
5. Reach out to family and friends
Remember that others are also going through similar feelings. Whether you need help or they, check in with others periodically. You may have never done this before the pandemic. But it is time you make it part of your routine. There is no need to assume that others are better off and they don’t care about you. Or that you would be intruding by reaching out. Instead of making such assumptions, be the first one to reconnect with people you are acquainted with. You may not know; your one call can make all the difference to someone.
6. Keep a journal
Record all your thoughts and experiences during the pandemic. Writing them down can bring more clarity and focus. This exercise may help you accept your need for help. Or help you find a coping mechanism on your own. Whenever you are confused and feel lost, go back to your journal and read the entries to get a comprehensive perspective of the situation. And the journal can also tell you how your feelings and emotions have transformed as the ground realities changed.
Recommended Reading: 365 Journal Prompts for Self Discovery
Here are some more suggestions that you can try to combat loneliness when you feel isolated.
- Join voluntary organizations to help others fight the pandemic
- Find avenues to be more productive
- Try activities that will boost your self-worth and confidence
- Take care of your basic needs
- Seek out ways to support and encourage others
- Use social media to connect with others
The World Health Organization (WHO) keeps reminding us that we are still not out of the woods in this pandemic. The world as a whole has a long way to go before we can put this behind us. So, learning to cope with loneliness is a vital step for your long-term mental health.
Each one of us has a different experience with social isolation. The way we treat the situation, the way we feel, or how we cope with it. What works for one may not work for another. Be willing to adapt to changing rules and circumstances. Don’t feel reluctant to approach a therapist if need be.