COVID-19 is a challenge for us all and can therefore cause unprecedented levels of stress in our day-to-day lives. Positive social support can improve our capacity to cope with stress, but we are currently required to keep our distance from others in order to flatten the curve and minimize the spread of the virus. However, millions of people, of all ages, do not have a family member or roommate they live with, and therefore, are social distancing alone. This can cause significant levels of loneliness since humans are naturally social and not having regular social interaction can have a negative impact on mental health. This could possibly lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleeping problems, and increased stress levels.
It is vital that we manage loneliness during isolation in order to mitigate its negative impact on mental health. If you, or someone you know is social distancing alone, then we at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY, can help you to care for your mental health during isolation.
To clarify, there is a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. In fact, certain amounts of solitude can be good for our mental health as it gives us time for self-reflection and an opportunity for self-growth. Social isolation alone is therefore not all bad – you can be alone and be happy. However, if you are feeling lonely, you may be experiencing a low affect that you are struggling to shake. It is imperative that you maintain a positive outlook during isolation and schedule your day to alleviate the symptoms of loneliness.
Loneliness and Depression
Loneliness and depression, unfortunately, often go hand in hand. In fact, the American Psychological Association claims that loneliness is a specific risk factor for depression. Being unable to express and receive words of comfort and affection during this trying time increases the sense of isolation, particularly if you are experiencing symptoms of depression. Social isolating and depression can be a vicious cycle, as isolating can lead to symptoms of depression, which in turn can lead to further withdrawal from social connections. However, social distancing alone doesn’t mean that you have to become lonely or depressed. You can effectively prepare and nip loneliness in the bud.
How to Cope with Loneliness
Keeping yourself distracted during social distancing alone can help to mitigate loneliness. The following guidelines can help you to establish a balanced day:
- Recognize the benefits of being alone – even if you are feeling lonely, you can still acknowledge the positives of being alone. This can be something small such as watching what you want on TV or reading a book without being disturbed.
- Consider who you can contact for support if you need it.
- Do a morning workout early – exercise will help you to feel positive both physically and mentally, therefore improving your mood.
- Establish regular zoom or Skype breaks with friends or family. This will help you to feel remotely connected to the people in your life.
- Keep your work routine as regular as possible in order to maintain a sense of normalcy.
- Practice mindful breathing – focusing on your breath and your body can help to distract you from negative thoughts.
- Phone loved ones regularly or use FaceTime – loneliness should not develop if you do this once or twice a day.
- Connect with online social groups – social media has a wide range of online groups which cater to a number of interests and areas.
- Look for the good in any situation – this can be a helpful strategy in unprecedented circumstances, as it helps us to see the bright side of every occasion.
Social distancing alone can be difficult, however, there are healthy, enjoyable ways to manage it. To find out more about caring for your mental health, or to learn about the mental health services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY, contact us at 518-218-1188.