We’re all adjusting to the “new normal” of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the biggest adjustments we’ve made is ensuring a minimum physical distance of 6 feet from others. This is useful in limiting close contact, which we believe increases the risk of viral infection as well as inadvertently infecting others .
Just because we must create physical distance to help slow the spread of the coronavirus does not mean we have to be socially distant. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the term “social distancing” has been used repeatedly to describe how we need to stay home and avoid close contact to help reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. While the importance of these measures cannot be overstated, the term “social distancing” implies completely isolating oneself from human connection, a practice that is harmful to mental health. In fact, many mental health experts are advocating for the use of terms like “distant socializing” or “physical distancing” instead. These terms reinforce the need to be physically separate from people right now, but emphasize that this does not mean we should be emotionally or socially distant. Until the crisis passes, it may be more important than ever to maintain close relationships, in order to care for the mental health of yourself and your loved ones.
If we continue to socially engage with one another in new, virtual ways, we can get through the crisis together, and lower our risk of social isolation and related mental health problems.
Consequences of Social Isolation
At the moment, we need to physically distance to fight off the spread of the coronavirus. We do not, however, need social distance from our family members, friends, and others who we previously connected with before the pandemic.
If we social distance in the literal sense of the term,we withdraw from our loved ones, and therefore put ourselves at risk for developing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. We also risk social isolation, which can further increase the risk of mental health problems. When you are feeling overwhelmed by the crisis, it is completely understandable and often helpful to give yourself some quiet time to focus on your thoughts and feelings.. This mental break may be healthy, and when you’re ready, you can and should return to regular habits of keeping in touch with friends and family.
If a mental break turns into sustained periods of social isolation, you may experience helplessness, hopelessness, and other symptoms of depression due to loss and grief caused by the coronavirus pandemic. These feelings may be linked to a loss of life, loss of a job, loss of freedom, and other problems brought on by the crisis. They may also be new feelings, and you may be unsure about how to deal with them.
The risk of social isolation can be particularly high in elderly populations. Seniors are fearful of getting infected and concerned about the impact the virus may have on them, as they have been deemed to be at a higher risk of contracting the virus.. The fear of dying alone due to increased hospital visitation restrictions is also prevalent in seniors during the pandemic, causing heightened symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In one study performed at UC San Diego, researchers interviewed a group of seniors living in nursing homes; these seniors lived in self-quarantine and were unable to see their families and interact with them. The seniors described the loneliness that went along with their nursing home experience as “ugly.”
Like the seniors in the UCSD study, many of us are dealing with ugly experiences. The pandemic is forcing us to spend long periods of time indoors, away from family and friends. We’re also missing out on hugs, handshakes, and other physical contact with our loved ones, and this lack of physical connection is causing us to experience a loss of control. This loss can be overwhelming, and without the ability to cope with it, it may lead to social isolation.
When we socially isolate, we avoid the people who care about us. We may cycle through negative thoughts and feelings associated with the coronavirus pandemic, and we won’t reach out for support. This can cause severe anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. If left untreated, the side effects of social isolation may even cause us to experience recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
How to Manage Social Isolation
You need to know the warning signs of social isolation, so you can identify and manage them before they get out of hand.
Those for whom social distancing turns into social isolation may lose interest in any engagement with family, friends, and others. They may also experience changes to their sleep or eating habits,, leading to unhealthy weight changes and feeling constantly worn down. There may also be feelings of anxiety, stress, and other depression symptoms that occur when people feel socially isolated.
If you notice any signs of social isolation, seek medical help. Medical assistance is readily available, and doctors are increasingly providing telemedicine appointments to those who want to pursue mental health treatment options during the pandemic.
A telemedicine appointment is very similar to going to a doctor’s office, except for the fact that you are at home when you meet with your doctor. You set up your smartphone, tablet, or computer and connect to a doctor via a HIPPA-compliant app or software. Then, you enter a virtual waiting room at the time of your appointment and are connected to your doctor remotely. You can then share your mental health concerns with your doctor, and they can offer a personalized treatment plan.
Telemedicine is a useful mental health tool during the time of the pandemic, because it allows you to chat with a doctor at home and receive treatment in real-time. You can also set up regular sessions with a mental health counselor via telemedicine appointments.
In addition to conducting telemedicine appointments, a doctor may prescribe a medication to help temporarily alleviate symptoms of depression. In this instance, you may be able to get medication sent right to your home, as many pharmacies are providing deliveries throughout the crisis.
Along with telemedicine appointments and/or medication, you can still keep in touch with loved ones via phone and video chat as the pandemic progresses. It can be beneficial to set up frequent chats with family and friends.
Of course, connectivity goes a long way, particularly in today’s technology-driven world. To ward off the risk of social isolation, you can use technology to stay active and healthy. Mobile apps are available that make it easy to exercise with others remotely, much in the same way you would at a gym or as part of a boxing or yoga class. These apps help you engage with others in virtual fitness sessions and help you stay in good physical and mental shape.
There are also plenty of opportunities to let your imagination run wild as you spend more time indoors during the pandemic. If you enjoy cooking, you can look up new recipes online, prepare them, and share your food photos with family and friends on social media. For those who like touring museums and historic landmarks, many venues are offering virtual tours. You can even set up virtual get-togethers where family and friends come together to play games online, enjoy meals together, and more.
Whereas there may be periods where you want to connect with loved ones, there may also be times when you want to be alone during the pandemic. It’s ok to spend time on your own, and you can use this time to listen to music, read a book, and enjoy other mindfulness activities.
Seek Mental Health Treatment As Needed Throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic
When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, it is easy to play the blame game where we try to blame others for the circumstances at hand. This can lead to anxiety, stress, and other symptoms of depression, along with social distancing that leads to social isolation.
What we need right now is to come together while we stay physically apart, which is a major challenge for all of us. With physical distancing, we can stay a safe distance from one another to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus. With social engagement, we can support one another as we try to get through this crisis.
Achieve TMS is the nation’s leading provider of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. We are here to assist our patients and their families during the pandemic. Currently, we are offering HIPAA-compliant telemedicine appointments for consultations, evaluations, and follow-ups, along with daily treatment in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Since insurance companies may experience delays due to the crisis, we encourage you to start the insurance approval process as soon as possible. To learn more about TMS therapy for depression symptoms, please contact us online, or call us today at 877-247-0101.