Strategies for Staying Connected While Social Distancing

Are you or a loved one suffering from mental health issues brought on by prolonged social isolation during the pandemic? Social distancing and work from home have affected all of us, sometimes creating intense loneliness and stress. For both the elderly population and young people, these public measures have been associated with higher risks of mental health problems and even substance use. The key to prevention is staying socially connected while physically distancing.  

The Risks of Social Isolation 

Like many people, you might like to enjoy some solitude occasionally. Being alone can be relaxing and even healing, but social isolation is different. It refers to unhealthy solitude and lack of social relationships, which can cause intense emotions of loneliness and depression. Some people suffer from isolation because they choose to; they avoid social contact for reasons like low self-esteem or social anxiety disorder. Others live socially isolated lives due to traumatic events such as domestic violence or the loss of loved ones. 

Unhealthy social isolation can lead to a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a decline in the immune system. Isolation-induced loneliness is also a cause for poor cardiovascular health and a decline in cognitive functions. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds that social isolation contributes to higher risks of premature mortality in the U.S. 

Effects of Pandemic Social Distancing 

The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed a prolonged physical distancing on society to reduce the transmission of an infectious disease. Physical distancing and quarantine have been tested as public health measures during times like this one. By limiting people’s movement and monitoring health in the public sphere, scientists are trying to control the pandemic. Businesses and workplaces are encouraging work from home in order to curb the spread of the virus. The result is a collective reduction of the frequency of physical interactions.

But physical distancing, especially when used on a population for a prolonged period of time, may bring negative consequences by exposing people to another silent epidemic — social isolation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), isolation and loneliness are also posing serious public health risks. Young people, in particular, are found to be hit hardest by pandemic isolation. The causes are not just isolation but also the looming uncertainty concerning schooling and the job market. Other marginalized social status groups are also at high risk. They include the LGBTQ+ community and immigrants who have fewer resources and suffer from discrimination.

Staying Socially Connected While Physically Distancing

During the pandemic, nothing is more important than intentional self-care. While trying to stay informed about how public health measures are implemented, you need to create an at-home routine that fosters a sense of purpose and normalcy. Self-care also means that you need to intentionally build a relaxation strategy into your daily routine. These may include listening to music, reading, meditation, prayer, exercise, journaling, and walking outside. These all help in reducing boredom, stress, and anxiety while you are physically distancing from others.

It is essential to know that physical distancing does not mean social isolation. You can still actively engage in community activities by using modern technologies. Try to sign up for an online book club. Check out some online art classes. Call up a good friend and enjoy a hearty chat. Start a masked backyard party with your neighbors in the evenings. There are many things to stay active and engaged while working with public health measures. It would help if you acknowledged the reality of lockdown anxiety. Do not assume that you can pull through on your own. Rely on the collective strength and reach out to people who are struggling with isolation.

Getting Treated for Mental Health Issues

Prolonged physical isolation and the fear of a virus circulating in the community can cause a range of mental health issues. These include compulsive thinking, negative self-talk, depression, anxiety, mood swings, excessive anger, and panic attacks. Many of these can lead to substance use, which then worsens the symptoms of mental illness.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms caused by pandemic isolation, treatment plans are available to help you recover. Maybe you need to find an experienced interventionist who can listen to your fears and concerns before matching you with a treatment plan that is a good fit for you. If you need a transition to in-person treatment, there are many online telemedicine programs. 

Depending on your symptoms, it might be good to eventually enroll in a residential treatment center where you will enjoy the support of a community, including staff and peers. At a professional treatment facility, expert therapists can use several medically proven techniques to diagnose your symptoms. Those that work well in treating isolation-induced symptoms include cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. 

Are you or a loved one suffering from pandemic isolation? Has physical distancing worsened your depression and anxiety symptoms? Do you have more frequent urges or cravings to use alcohol and drugs while staying at home? Early intervention is essential to stop another mental health and addiction epidemic from arising during this prolonged battle against COVID-19. The truth is, you can stay socially connected while physically distancing. You need to work with experienced interventionists who can coach you on how to care for yourselves. At South Florida Intervention, we have the passion, expertise, and experience to walk alongside you. We will spend time to know your needs and match you with tailor-made treatment plans. Our staff offers recovery coaching and case management for your specific needs. Our intervention strategies also include sober escort and parent coaching. Call us at (202) 390-2273 today. We are eager to answer your questions about mental health issues and substance use prevention during the pandemic.