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Coping with Corona Virus social distancing and feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Social distancing, doing our part to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, may leave many of us feeling lonely and isolated at times, whether we live alone or with others. Humans are social beings by nature. It’s important we find other ways of staying connected for our emotional and physical well-being.

The experience of feeling connected that comes from reaching out to others keeps loneliness away, stress at manageable levels and strengthens our immune system. In this blog you’ll find some tips and information on how to stay connected and feel less lonely while practicing social distancing and staying in place.

The term “social distancing” is misleading because it’s not accurate. It’s helpful to replace the term “social distancing” with the term “physical distancing.” Reminding ourselves that we’re all still connected, even if we can’t be physically together. As well as making “distant socializing” a priority.

You can still get together with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers online or on your phone with technology today. There are apps that make face-to-face conversations effortless such as Skype and free apps like WhatsApp, Zoom, FaceTime and Facebook’s Messenger. You don’t have to miss special events such as a birthday party, engagement or babies first steps and you can share a meal or play a game as if you’re in the same room. By using these apps to connect online you’ll feel like you’re together even when you’re not. Research finds that interacting through technology improves symptoms of isolation and depression in older adults. These findings imply that interacting through technology may benefit people of all ages.

There is almost nothing you can’t do online. It’s important to schedule a weekly call with your support network and family to check in and stay connected. Send emails and texts. Continue to host and participate in your clubs such as book, singing and writing to name a few. Many churches are live streaming services as well as fitness instructors live streaming their classes. Most national support groups have online meetings such as: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, etc.…just go on their web site to get started.

Social Media is a wonderful way to stay connected even though there are mixed messages out there about the benefit to us. We want to use it mindfully and opt for live connection whenever it’s available. Research reveals active social media use such as: posting, commenting on others posts and communicating with people appears to be better for our mental health than passive social media use such as: scrolling through social and news feeds.

If you don’t have access to online communication tools. The phone is still an effective way to stay close. Conversation whether it's face to face or over the phone helps you feel less alone and more supported. You can also write letters or send cards. Sometimes it’s easier to express yourself and how you feel about others by writing your thoughts and feelings instead of communicating them over the phone or face to face.

With kids home from school and college and partners working from home, it’s still possible to feel lonely in the age of social media, binge watching and addiction to our phones. It’s important to make quality time with loved ones a priority in order keep feelings of loneliness and isolation at bay. Time together can be spent eating meals, playing board games, cooking/baking together, doing home improvement projects, taking a walk outside with your dog or cat- to name a few. Additionally, by doing an activity together it helps to bridge the generation gap or distance that may have settled into a relationship by giving everyone something to talk about. It also brings everyone into the present moment out of our heads where everyone is safe and healthy. Finally, it’s an opportunity to continue to make memories together.

Due to the extra time many of us have on our hands it’s a good time to pursue things that give us a sense of accomplishment such as helping others. By helping others, it gives one a sense of purpose while assisting us with feeling more in control and less lonely. It could be anything from reaching out to grocery shopping. You could learn a new hobby such as a new language on the no cost app Duolingo. Learning something new also helps with brain health. Dust off your to-do list and pursue something you’ve been putting off such as completing your taxes, cleaning out closets/drawers/cupboards or spring cleaning.

It’s also a great time to get busy with activities that we have control over. We can continue to make our health and the health of our loved ones and neighbors a priority by staying up to date on how to prevent COVID-19 on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) web site or the World Health Organization (WHO) web site. If you’re concerned about bills. Be proactive. Get in touch with your credit card company or bank. Today many businesses are willing to work with you. To see if you qualify for the stimulus program go on and if you need to file for unemployment go on your state’s web site.

Making self-care a priority will make you feel better as well as strengthen your immune system. It’s important to get in 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night to help your mood and memory, your ability to focus and fight infection. If you struggle with getting enough sleep, it’s important to track and share with your primary care doctor.

Eat healthy, well-balanced meals daily that include 3 cups of vegetables and 2 and a half cups of fruit, of different colors. Each color has different antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. Drink 64 oz. to half your weight in ounces of water a day to keep every part of your body working properly, remove waste, maintain proper body temperature and prevent dehydration, constipation and kidney stones.

Try to use your stress management techniques daily so they’ll be effective when you need them. If you’d like to learn some new ones such as deep breathing, mediation or progressive muscle relaxation look for teachers on You Tube. It’s important to maintain a schedule: have a regular wake-up and bedtime and schedule time for relaxation, exercise and connecting with others.

Exercise is one of my favorite ways of relaxing and dealing with extra time on my hands. Exercise keeps you physically and mentally fit. It releases feel-good chemicals in your brain that boost your mood. If you can get outside to exercise while maintaining a healthy distance from others it provides additional benefits. Research shows that nature has a natural calming effect. If you need additional motivation and support with exercise you will find fitness instructors on You Tube providing classes on yoga, Pilates, circuit training, walking, etc.…

If you or someone you care about is having anxiety, or feeling down, depressed or hopeless it’s important to remember you have behavioral health benefits if you have health insurance. The services are being provided via teletherapy, a secure form of face time or over the phone at this time. If you already have a therapist or psychiatrist see if they can continue to provide services online or over the phone. I provide teletherapy as an out of network licensed therapist and you can call, text or send me a message via the web site to get started.

If there is a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's that we are getting through this together. And as a result of this we are going to emerge stronger, healthier and more connected than before.

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