Most Americans are feeling the effects of COVID-19. The need for self-distancing and staying home when we are used to being able to move about in our society is a significant lifestyle change. One of the prominent issues is the sense of isolation that naturally occurs from quarantine and/or staying home. It can cause a variety of emotional struggles including anxiety, depression, a sense of rejection, loneliness, apathy, powerlessness, hopelessness and many other difficult emotions.
One of the problems is that the typical strategies for coping with isolation usually involve connecting with other people. But quarantine limits those who cannot go to their usual places of connection. This reality creates difficulty and even confusion in knowing what to do when facing the effects of isolation. Here are some ideas that may be useful.
We know from current neuroscience that effective brain regulation is somatosensory (interventions that effect our 5 senses). The same interventions that we use for other types of stress relief can be used for isolation stress. Yoga, meditation, body movement, fidgets, breathing, listening to calming music, knitting, painting, drawing, creating other forms of art and other such activities are both enjoyable and brain-regulating. Maybe there are some other ways that calm you that you should use on a scheduled daily basis.
The idea of creating a routine for each day is also very helpful. When we feel like we have no purpose and are achieving very little in a day we tend to feel unfulfilled and empty at the end of the day. It is important to develop your own routine, and if you have children for them as well. That kind of structure can be very regulating in a world full of uncertainty. Also don’t forget to actively listen, reassure and affirm children and other family members for all the good things they are doing with and for each other.
The benefit of our current technology is that there are many different vehicles for connection. Social media has many ways to stay connected with text, online conversations, Facebook and Instagram. Also, a simple phone call can be a way to connect to friends, family and those you always wanted to call but didn’t have time. Be intentional to make those calls and enjoy that time with those you care about.
I have already referred to body movement as a positive to regulation. One way to insure consistent body movement is to develop an exercise routine while at home. Exercise releases all kinds of good brain chemistry which helps us regulate and keep our bodies in a good place to avoid the impact of being unable to move as normal. If you struggle with motivation to exercise there are a lot of online exercise programs and tutorials that you can join and view to guide your process.
Some have suggested that one way to fight isolation is to take out positive family photos or videos and review them. Last evening my family looked at some of our past family videos of vacations and other events that were full of fun and laughter. It was great therapy and gave us a sense of joy and enjoyment of each other as we remembered many good memories.
Friends and Neighbor Care
One other meaningful activity is to help those who may be less fortunate than you. Recognizing that social distancing needs to be in place, we can still ask our neighbors or family members if they are coping well themselves and if they need anything. We actually have that going on in my neighborhood which has really helped our purposefulness and helps those who are isolated to feel like someone cares and is willing to help them.
Another meaningfull and fulfilling strategy is to actually take on some projects that have been on your to-do list for some time. Cleaning out attics, closets, painting a room, the deep cleaning activities, working on spring projects outdoors and other types of projects can give us a sense of purpose and alleviate the sense of isolation as well. And don’t forget to wipe down counters, door knobs and other high-touch areas with disinfectant.
Work at Home
For those who are working from home that routine is also a vital part of helping with that sense of isolation. Be intentional to keep in contact with your co-workers to the extent that you can so you can work connected to your team. Facetime, Skype and Zoom are examples of ways to stay connected with staff and those in your business sphere of influence.
Most of the predictions about COVID-19 are that we will be dealing with its spread and impact for an extended period. Coping with the isolation effect will be important for all of us as we work together to navigate this very serious virus. These are some ideas that may be helpful but by all means be creative and explore your own ways of coping. Most of all, stay connected during this global pandemic.