To say that the ongoing pandemic has caused challenges in our daily lives is an understatement. From cancelled plans to hearing about friends or family in the hospital, the number of ways it has upended our routines are endless. Although the ongoing pandemic is primarily a concern for our physical health, the precautions needed to slow or prevent the spread of the disease such as isolating yourself from others may cause a different problem – namely, our mental health.
In line with social distancing, the majority of us have been self-isolating to keep our loved ones safe. But given that humans have an innate need for connection and social contact (no matter how introverted you are!), research has proven that social isolation can lead to various mental health concerns . This can lead to depression, anxiety, poor sleep quality and more. Knowing how to tackle and overcome feelings of isolation is crucial to maintain our mental wellness. However, after spending months cooped up at home with no end in sight, learning how to cope with loneliness can be a daunting task. Fortunately, it’s not impossible. Here are some ways you can start coping with isolation:
Reach Out to Others Remotely
The best way to deal with isolation is to stay in contact with people who are isolating, too. Research has shown that being social decreases the risk of depression while improving our overall mental health . With the advent of technology, there are many ways you can enjoy and spend time with friends or family via a phone or video call — watch a movie, play a game, do online scavenger hunts or enjoy a drink or two together. Reaching out to friends and simply checking up on them can do wonders, not just for yourself, but them as well.
Develop a Routine
There’s a certain beauty in having a routine — and mental health professionals Jaclyn Einstein and Kristy Fitzgerald agree . They explain that developing a routine can help us stay grounded as it gives us a sense of normalcy despite abnormal situations. It also reduces stress, improves sleep and promotes better overall health . This is because it helps you stay on top of the things you need to do, thereby reducing stress. It can even promote a healthier diet by encouraging you to eat at the right time.
Find a Hobby
An idle mind can lead to anxiety which can send you spiraling towards feelings of loneliness. To avoid this, make use of the time you have at home to try out things you never had the time for. This could be painting, reading or making music. You can also consider learning a new skill or language. There are plenty of online classes and resources at your fingertips.
There are days when things can get a little overwhelming. Taking care of yourself is a key way to keeping feelings of loneliness at bay. Self-care involves a lot of activities best practiced every day: eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising and doing things that generally give you joy. Practicing this every day can boost your mental outlook and give you more energy to take up a new hobby and reach out to friends and family.
Stay Updated – But Not Too Updated
While we’re fortunate enough to have access to rapid updates thanks to technology, if you’re not careful you could fall prey to misinformation or suffer from over-saturation. The key is to only trust reliable sources of information such as the World Health Organization or your local government authorities, but don’t glue yourself to the TV or phone for news. “Resist the urge to escape or calm your fears by obsessively reading virus updates. Paradoxically, facing anxiety in the moment will lead to less anxiety over time.” says Professor Jelena Kecmanovic from Georgetown University . Give yourself a set amount of time to read news each day and stay away from it when that time is up.
Seek Professional Help When Needed
If everything gets a little too intense, it’s okay to admit defeat. Long periods of loneliness can eventually impact not just mental health, but your physical health as well. Reaching out to get help should be done way before this point. It’s important to realize that help is available and recognize when you need it. Fortunately, there are many professionals who have taken their practice online – it’s only a matter of reaching out to them.