The pandemic, going on almost a year, has only exacerbated the feeling of being disconnected and overwhelmed by uncertainty, fear, and frustration. Our whole sense of normalcy, safety, and routine has been disrupted. But it is possible to reduce isolation anxiety during this time of sheltering and social distancing.
It’s normal and OK to feel overwhelmed and isolated right now. Everyone to a degree is experiencing similar feelings. You have to allow yourself to feel these feelings and go easy on yourself. Feelings of frustration, fear, anger, anxiety and sadness are completely normal during this time of upheaval and major changes.
Pandemic-induced isolation heightens these emotions and feels like a trap for your mind. It’s important to lean on outside support and self-care now more than ever. But how do you do that with sheltering and social distancing keeps you from doing things that you would normally do to support your wellbeing?
Mental health experts say to engage in movement and activities to reduce isolation and distress during these challenging times.
Some of these tips include:
- Dive into activities you enjoy
- Nourish existing relationships
- Make new connections
- Set boundaries
- Take advantage of virtual therapy
“Ask yourself what kind of movement you need right now. Do you need to feel energized? You can still go for a walk, go to a park, ride your bike, lift weights at home, or hike while practicing social distancing,” he says. “Or maybe you need your body to slow down? Try movement that slows your heart rate like yoga, stretching, and deep belly breathing.”
Experts also recommends nourishing your existing relationships. Because of COVID you will have to connect with family and friends over phone, Skype or Zoom.
- Reach out to your strong friend, those you know in vulnerable populations, or people who are especially isolated right now and set aside time each day to deepen your relationships.
- We can all offer each other moments of authentic connection, empathy, laughter, or even distraction.
Another way to reduce isolation is to make new connections beyond your usual circle.
- Many people are posting and coordinating virtual activities, all you have to do is reply to join.
- If you’re feeling more outgoing, post on your social media and invite others to reach out to you for virtual lunch hour, craft night, or to share a skill you can teach.
- Take this chance to find others who have common interests or hobbies and want to spend an hour or two connecting over them.
While doing all this, be cognizant of setting boundaries, that by expanding connections, the flood of information and the sheer amount of options may in itself feel overwhelming, leading to a desire to isolate even more.
Know your limits. Reducing isolation isn’t just about increasing contact with others, it’s also about being mindful about what feels right for yourself. Remember, it is OK to take breaks from the news, mute group chats, or voice your needs for boundaries around COVID-19 talk.
Find your own balance and then lead with self-compassion. Honor what amount of balance feels right for you, step back from all-or-nothing urges. It is important for our well-being to engage in social connections, but you do not need to every second of the day. Listen to your emotions and needs, allow yourself to rest, be cared for, and ask for help when needed.