How to Alleviate the Mental Health Burden of Social Distancing During COVID-19
Humans Need Social Interaction and Connection
Humans thrive on feeling connected with other humans. As renowned psychologist Brené Brown articulates, “a deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people,” a need as fundamental as food or air. Strong social connectedness is associated with a stronger immune system, lower rates of anxiety and depression, and increased longevity.
Conversely, studies have shown that social isolation may increase one’s risk of death more than smoking, obesity, or high blood pressure. Social connectedness is about quality over quantity; focus on fostering deep, meaningful connections with people who will support you, even if that’s only a few people.
Social Distancing Does Not Have to Equal Social Disconnectedness
It’s important to remain connected with friends, family, and loved ones now more than ever. Although social distancing guidelines may preclude in-person socializing with anyone outside the walls of your home, you can still stay connected with others virtually. Fortunately, we have great technology resources at our fingertips for this purpose—such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and Skype.
Research suggests that seeing people we care about face-to-face—even virtually—can help alleviate loneliness and depression. You can have a virtual “happy hour,” game night, karaoke session, or book club. Use your imagination. If you want to meet new people, you can even host or join an online event through an app such as Meetup.
Take Good Care of Your Body to Reduce Anxiety
Getting proper nutrition and sleep is as important as ever and will reduce your chances of being overly anxious or depressed. Sunshine, fresh air, and time spent out in nature can have immune-boosting effects on the body. You can still go for a walk or jog outside while practicing social distancing. Exercise can provide huge boosts to your mental health as well as physical health.
Fortunately, the closure of gyms doesn’t mean the end of an exercise routine. There are many free virtual workout classes which you can follow along with from home; many exercises require no equipment other than your own body weight. Finding a virtual exercise buddy can help you stay motivated.
Take Good Care of Your Mind to Reduce Anxiety
Practicing gratitude is proven to boost your mood. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do right now, make a list of the things you do have and the things you can still do that make you happy. If you can work from home, work itself may be a good way to occupy your mind.
Here are some other ideas: Work on a personal project you’ve been putting off or start a new one. Revisit old photos and memories. Listen to music. Sing. Pray or meditate. Take a hot shower. Brew yourself a warm cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Keep a journal. Write letters to loved ones. Solve brain puzzles. Donate to your favorite charity online. Order take-out food from your favorite local restaurant. Read a book you really enjoy. Binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix. Studies show that empathizing with fictional characters can have real psychological benefits, such as an increased sense of belonging.
Therapy and Support Are Readily Available Through Telehealth
The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world and is causing many people to react with anxiety, fear, or stress. Fear of a contagious and potentially deadly disease can take a heavy toll on people. Being socially isolated can be especially hard on extroverts and those who rely heavily on social activities for emotional support. If you're struggling, there’s no shame in admitting it. We’re all in this together.
You may find support from a friend or family member, or you may want to schedule a therapy session. For a limited time, SAMI-Aid is offering access to therapists and psychiatrists for only $59.99 per session, the same low price as a regular doctor’s appointment. Simply select the type of provider you wish to see during the patient intake process. Our compassionate customer care team has extended business hours and are ready to assist you at 1-844-SAMI-AID if you have any problems.