As the world approaches its one-year anniversary of masks, social distancing, and working from home, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the toll that the pandemic has taken on us. The past year has seen us isolated in an attempt to stay safe, leaving us deprived of human connections. This has been especially true for senior citizens and other high-risk individuals. While social distancing has helped to protect your body, it can pose serious challenges to your mind.
Without proper management, social isolation can result in dire consequences like anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. This is especially true for senior citizens and other high-risk members of society, whose contact with the outside world has been most limited of all. No matter who you are, being alone for an extended period can be detrimental to the mind.
The Effects of Loneliness on the Brain
Your mental health and physical health go hand in hand in many ways. Your brain processes mental and social distress using the same neural pathways that carry messages of physical pain. Emotional turmoil can cause you to develop bodily aches, slowness, exhaustion, or digestion problems. Prolonged negative states like loneliness can also cause you to develop emotional conditions like depression or anxiety. Battling mental health concerns can take a serious toll on your self-confidence and your motivation to move forward in life.
One sure sign that you may need to take better care of yourself emotionally is if you experience consistent feelings of loneliness and disconnect. Feelings of belonging and the comforts of companionship are crucial components of a stable mind. Without social support, your mental health can suffer, affecting how you interact with other people, your ability to tolerate stress, your inner motivation, and your overall quality of life. In isolation, you may start feeling like nothing matters or begin making reckless or destructive decisions.
The Emotional Challenge of Social Distancing
Throughout the pandemic, one of the greatest struggles for many people has been the temptation to simply give up and go outside to interact with others. Without the human contact we need, it can be much easier to feel constantly drained or hopeless. This is especially true for anyone who already battles with anxiety or depression. You may find yourself caught between not wanting to be isolated and not wanting to risk your health. All the time spent away from others may also have made it hard to transition back into more regular social activity in a way that feels safe.
Managing Loneliness from Within
Caring for your mental health can be as simple as making yourself more comfortable in the face of stress. Try taking a hot shower, drinking tea, grabbing a blanket, and lighting some candles. Read a book, listen to some relaxing music, and generally focus on making the present moment as enjoyable as possible. On the other side of the same coin, the never ending cycle of news and opinions about COVID-19 can serve as a source of particular stress. Consider limiting your intake of daily news and social media, and make sure to fact-check any information you receive in conversations or online.
Taking on a long-term project can help keep you busy. Activities like painting, carpentry, making music, and gardening can all serve as therapeutic outlets that take your mind off sources of stress. You can also work on developing a more positive perspective. Difficult though it may seem, try seeing the glass as half full. Instead of thinking that you are stuck at home, practice thinking that you are safe at home. Slight shifts in attitude can help reduce feelings of fear and helplessness.
External Solutions for Managing Loneliness
In adapting to this new reality, one popular method of communication has been to use video calls like FaceTime and Zoom. While virtual connectivity might not replace in-person quality time, it can help to bridge the gap. Some choose to meet up with friends outdoors or in other ways that meet CDC guidelines for activities like biking, bonfires, skating, tennis, and hiking. However you can, it is imperative to be intentional in caring for your mental health by making sure you don’t fall into a rut of anxiety and stress.
If your circumstances or internal turmoil don’t allow you to find relief within your home or outside it, it may be time to consider reaching out for professional support. There’s no shame in connecting with a counselor or therapist to help you navigate this unprecedented situation. After struggling with isolation for so long, having access to effective assistance can make a world of difference.
Practicing the necessary precautions of social distancing may have taken a serious toll on your mental health. Living without social interaction can hamper your ability to function properly, making it vital to find creative ways to stay emotionally balanced throughout this trying time. It’s entirely understandable if video calls aren’t enough to fill the void of human contact. If living in isolation has led you to struggle with feelings of depression, anxiety, or stress, it may benefit you to seek professional help. Even when it seems hopeless, you don’t have to fight destructive feelings on your own. Facilities like HealthyU offer programs designed to get you back on track to a healthier state of mind. We provide a plethora of effective treatment options that can help you through the challenges of the pandemic and beyond. If you or a loved one are dealing with any form of intense stress, mental illness, or addiction, don’t hesitate to get the help you need. Contact us at (619) 542-9542 to learn more.