In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is changing in ways we never thought possible, and self-isolation is a must to flatten the curve. Restaurants are closed, large-scale events are canceled, and people are being asked to practice social distancing to slow to spread of the coronavirus. So much is still unknown and there are no answers regarding how long this will last. Researchers and leaders around the world are asking us to avoid large social gatherings, and when possible, stay home to protect ourselves and the population who is at high-risk for contracting the virus.
While self-isolation is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, it does not make the act of separating any easier. Socialization and human connection are fundamental to mental and physical health, but social distancing does not mean complete isolation. Rather, self-isolation is practicing physical distancing from others, and you can still find ways to stay connected to your loved ones during this trying time.
The Effects of Loneliness on Mental Health
Loneliness is an experience everyone has, and it does not always equate to being alone. When people feel unfulfilled in relationships or in social interactions, it can create feelings of loneliness just as the experience of being physically alone can. It is a deeply individual experience and can be caused by any number of factors.
Loneliness can greatly impact mental health, and in our current climate, it is expected that it will affect a significant portion of the population more dramatically. This is especially true for those who live alone during a time where it can feel impossible to connect with others. While feeling lonely is not a mental health problem, prolonged feelings of loneliness can lead to the development of symptoms associated with mental health problems. Research shows that loneliness can increase the risk for depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, disturbances in sleeping patterns, and increased levels of stress.
Feelings of loneliness can be caused by any number of factors and some people are more at risk than others to struggle with it. Factors such as the following can contribute significantly to feeling lonely:
- Being estranged from family
- Experiencing discrimination
- Moving to a new area where you do not have established social connections
- Going through a break-up
- Coping with the death of a loved one
- Experiencing abuse
- Being a single parent
Some people struggle with deep feelings of loneliness even if they are surrounded by friends and family. In the current climate, however, even those with strong social networks may find themselves struggling with loneliness more than ever. When left unaddressed, it can lead to a number of health problems, and when faced with the uncertainty of when life will “return to normal”, it can feel as though loneliness is an inevitable, inescapable outcome.
Coping with Loneliness in Self-Isolation
There are a number of ways to stay connected while practicing social distancing. Although many people have advocated for reducing screen time in the recent past, connecting with others using technology is a powerful tool while in self-isolation. The power of social media and technology has given us the unique ability to see the faces of loved ones, hear their voices, and stay connected to those around us.
Many people have already begun utilizing a number of creative ways to combat loneliness through a variety of mediums. Some of the best ways to connect with the world around you include:
- Phone calls
- Using video calling programs like FaceTime and Skype
- Conference calls using apps like Google Meet and Zoom to connect with large groups of people
- Playing online games through your computer, phone, or video game console
- Watching movies and television shows online together
- Joining online groups for local communities
The good news is, many people are naturally gravitating towards these tools to feel connected. Many are using these resources to provide help to others which strengthens a sense of community and belonging. Social media has begun sharing new challenges and fun ways to engage with others. From workout challenges to learning new dances on popular apps like TikTok, there has been a growing number of people participating and sharing fun ways to connect with their loved ones from a distance.
While it is not clear when things will begin to shift and life will begin to take on some semblance of normalcy, the connections being formed through online interaction are powerful tools that can combat loneliness and reduce feelings of isolation. There are significant benefits attributed to these connections and maintaining them once the dust settles can only continue to strengthen the bonds people form with one another. Reaching out to others during this trying time is vital and can profoundly reduce the impact of loneliness and make self-isolation an easier, more manageable practice.
Nexus Recovery is here to help the people of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas with their mental health and substance abuse issues. We’re taking the necessary steps to ensure our staff and clients are safe while we continue treatment. If you or someone you know needs help, contact us today for more information.