This doesn’t have to be a time of loneliness and depression! If we use it right, we can stay connected while protecting society by staying at home.
Social isolation has been well documented to increase chances of depression and other mental health disorders.
Social isolation, which many of us are currently experiencing, or are about to experience, around the world, is different from loneliness, which is a subjective feeling of a lack of social connection.
Social isolation is necessary to protect the human race at the moment, but it doesn’t have to lead to loneliness.
It’s important to keep in contact with loved ones – with the gift of technology, we can hear their voices and see their faces, which will help to mitigate the effects of social isolation.
Research has also shown that, specifically in social isolation and feelings of loneliness, but also more generally for your mental health too, it is important to recognise, label and acknowledge our negative thoughts. (Personality and Social Psychology Review, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2011).
Failure to recognise and acknowledge the negative thoughts can lead to ruminating, which is a vicious cycle for mental health.
So what can I do to stave of loneliness in this insane time?
- Once you realise you’re feeling low, tell yourself that it’s OK for this to be stressful and depressing at times. It helps to write these feelings down in a diary or to talk to someone on the phone about it, whether that be a registered counselling service or a friend.
- Exercise to help keep healthy and induce the release of “happiness hormones”.
- Don’t wait to feel depressed to exercise – you’re much less likely to exercise once you’re feeling sad if it’s not already a part of your routine. Exercise with a friend via Facetime, Whatsapp video call or the Houseparty app for multiple mates. It could be hilarious.
- Be mindful of slipping into unhealthier habits. Loneliness and social isolation can mean we no longer experience the same social cues we might normally experience to eat healthily, exercise and treat ourselves kindly. If you find yourself spending your time sitting on the couch, only eating processed foods and unable to bear the thought of getting dressed, talk to someone on the phone. Even if you don’t mention what your daily routine looks like, just have a conversation with someone to remind yourself that the rest of the world still exists and one day soon we’ll all be allowed to live normally again. So your boss will want you to remember how to shower.
- Look after your gut!
- Use a bit of realistic optimism to put a positive spin on how the next few weeks will play out for you.