Covid isolation and our mental health
As we enter the holiday season hearing more difficult news about the rising number of Covid cases and about more restrictions at the place where we can gather with friends, we need to be very aware of how all this is affecting our mental health. The constant call to stay away from others out of fear of illness, runs against our very nature as human beings. We need to interact with others for our well being and for their well being.
Ways we can cope…
Here are some ways to help cope with the loneliness that Covid can create in our lives. First pay close attention to how much the loneliness and isolation is affecting your mental health. I have heard from many people that they no longer want to return phone calls to friends or meet with them in online chat rooms. Their feeling of isolation has led them to withdraw even more. Instead of reaching out to others for support in their need, there is a pull inward that depression can bring. Most are unaware that they have changed in their behavior because it has happened slowly over the past several months.
Take a look at your recent pattern of contact with others. Has there been any changes? Does the thought of contacting people seem too emotionally draining for you? Do you cancel planned get togethers with others even in Covid safe environments like online meetings? Also look at your own personal routines for changes. Are you not eating as much or eating more than normal? Are you not able to sleep or sleeping more than you used to? Are you unable to focus on your work? Are you more angry and frustrated at small things? These are signs of depression.
When you realize that you are in fact having difficulty coping with the isolation and loneliness that social distancing has caused, list all your supports. Who are the family, friends, or co-workers that you can reach out to and let know that you are feeling down and isolated? If we don’t share what is happening to us with anyone, we can withdraw even more from others. Let them help you by listening to your concerns and sharing together ways to keep the contact going between you, even when you don’t feel like having any contact!
If you do not have family or friends that you are comfortable sharing your feelings with, contact a professional coach or counselor in your area. Go to the learn about services tab of this website for information on receiving relationship coaching. This will give you the support you need to express your feelings and plan more coping strategies. If you are having any suicidal thoughts, you must immediately get help by calling your local emergency number!
As a therapist I have found that one of the best ways for people to cope with their downward spiral of depression is to help others in need. This may seem like strange advice given that when we are depressed with have a lack of emotional energy, but it works. It works because when we focus on others in need, we don’t stay stuck focusing on our own needs. Helping them in their isolation ends up helping us in our isolation.
Who do you know that is living alone and is struggling with isolation? A neighbor? A co-worker? Does your local nursing home or place of worship need people to call or write their residents? Would you be willing to help them in their isolation? There are people around you who need your phone call or chat online today!
I hope that you try these strategies as we head into the holiday season. Reach out to get out of isolation. Covid doesn’t have to stop us from caring or sharing with others. We can keep connecting.