Humans thrive in environments with social contact and don’t do well in isolation. That’s why solitary confinement is used as a punishment in state penitentiaries. It causes the prisoners great mental anguish.
Many of us have had a taste of what it feels like to be in solitary or small group confinement over the last couple of months. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the lockdown measures to slow its spread, have been hard for many of us mentally and emotionally.
We don’t know how long this crisis will last and that uncertainty is adding to our distress. We don’t have control over the virus, or what our governments do, but we do have control over ourselves and what we focus on. With this in mind, here are some tips for coping with social isolation, for however long it goes on.
Isolate Yourself from the Media
Too much news can overwhelm you and increase anxiety. With a situation that is developing and so many differing points of view, it can cause confusion and panic to engage with too much media. Try to limit yourself to looking briefly at the headlines and personally relevant information, but stay away from the temptation to leave the news on all day or check-in repeatedly. There are much better and healthier places to put your attention and energy.
Being isolated can get very boring very quickly, so it’s important that you try and get creative with your time. This could mean doing a home beautification project like painting the living room and rearranging the furniture. Learning a new skill or language and maybe making it a group project with your partner or a family member. It could mean experimenting with an old recipe, trying some new dance moves, or making up a game with your kids. Just have fun and think outside the box!
Now is a great time to reconnect with friends and loved ones you haven’t spoken to in a while. Technology like Skype and Facetime makes it incredibly easy to chat with friends and family anywhere in the world. Try not to overthink it, just reach out. Very likely your friend could use the social contact now too.
A lot of the anxiety we may feel comes from the fact we aren’t moving our bodies as much as we usually do. It’s important to stay physically active during this time. If you can do so safely, try to get outside and get some sun too. Go for a walk or ride your bike. Not only is exercise good for us physically, but activity releases endorphins that make us feel good mentally and emotionally as well.
The world is a chaotic place right now and it seems we are being hit with negativity from all sides. Your internal chatter may also be very negative right now. It’s important to make time each day for some quiet in all this chaos. Meditation is a great way to find that quiet.
If you’ve never meditated before, that’s okay. Just give it a try. It isn’t about being a great meditator, it’s just about finding a little calm in the storm.
One of the easiest ways to meditate is through a listening meditation. Find a space in your house where you can be alone and get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out… and simply listen to the ambient sounds.
What do you hear? The buzzing of a light? A fly? Your dog’s collar rattling down the hall? Expand your hearing to see what else can you hear outside your house. Birds? Lawnmowers? Traffic?
Simply breathe and listen letting your mind bounce from sound to sound for 5-10 minutes. When you listen intently, you can’t think at the same time, so enjoy the mental quiet. If you notice that you slip and get caught up in your thoughts again, just refocus on the sounds and find the calm again.
If you find that the social isolation is really beginning to trouble you and you’d like to speak with someone, please contact me to schedule a consultation. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.