Research studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness can raise levels of stress, contribute to ongoing mental health issues, and impede sleep. We share 5 positive ways to cope with isolation.
Loneliness can also decrease a person’s overall physical health by causing cognitive problems, harming cardiovascular health, and impairing their ability to fight off illnesses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many of us to extensively distance ourselves from friends and family, leading to an increasing number of people dealing with mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Humans are designed to be social, and when this doesn’t happen, we tend to cope in harmful ways.
Substance abuse is one of the most common ways people deal with isolation and loneliness because it can numb the pain and make us feel better in the moment.
However, it can also have disastrous long-term consequences.
Bullying, withdrawing from loved ones, and self-harm are also common responses to isolation.
Some people may even go as far as refusing to accept that they are lonely, pushing away the negative feelings until they blow up and act out in harmful, self-destructive ways.
“People with previous substance abuse problems are more likely to cope with isolation and loneliness by misusing drugs or alcohol,” says Mat Gorman, CEO of Briarwood Detox Center. “This kind of behavior can quickly spiral out of control.”
It’s important to know that you are not alone if you are feeling isolated and depressed during this worldwide pandemic and there are several healthy ways to cope with isolation and feelings of loneliness.
Helping others can prevent feelings of isolation, ward off depression, and give you a sense of purpose and meaning at a time when things feel so uncertain.
There are many ways to volunteer and help others, even while you’re quarantined.
For example, you could pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, make face masks for people in your neighborhood, make and give away activity kits for families at your church, or host storytime online for young kids in your community who are stuck at home.
2. Try a new hobby
Dedicating your free time to purposeful activity can help you manage your emotions and cope with stress.
And the best thing about trying a new hobby is there’s no pressure to be the best.
You’re simply doing something for the joy of doing it.
While you’re stuck at home, there are plenty of great hobbies and activities to try out, such as gardening, painting, sewing, embroidery, photography, or learning how to play a musical instrument or speak a different language.
3. Practice gratitude.
It’s easy to give in to feelings of depression and anxiety when you’re focused on all the negative things happening in your life.
Sure, being quarantined isn’t ideal, but you can still practice gratitude in the midst of it.
Keep a journal and write down three things you’re thankful for every day.
Before you even get out of bed in the morning, choose one way you will make the day great.
Simply put, focus on the positive instead of the negative.
You may not have the opportunity to go out with your friends right now, but you can still find creative ways to spend time together, such as hosting a watch party on Netflix, group chat using Zoom, or writing letters to them.
4. Consider getting a pet.
If your budget and normal routine allow for it, a pet can provide great companionship.
Not only can a furry (or not-so-furry) friend help reduce feelings of loneliness, but it can also introduce many opportunities for outdoor exercise and recreation.
To avoid any additional stress or financial problems, you may want to consider how long the animal lives, what it eats, how large it will grow, how much you may need to pay for vet services, and how much physical exercise it will require to remain healthy.
5. Ask for help.
Sometimes feelings of isolation and loneliness can become too much to bear on your own.
If you feel like your life is spiraling out of control and you need help, there’s nothing wrong with asking for it.
Even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, there are many ways to get mental health care online through online drug rehab, remote recovery groups, virtual counseling sessions, and more.
If you need a recommendation, you can call your primary care physician or call your insurance company to find out what type of online healthcare treatments and providers are covered under your policy.
Being socially isolated and feeling lonely can have serious effects on your mental and physical well-being.
In a time such as now, it’s especially important to prioritize your mental health and take steps each day to care for yourself.
Fortunately, these steps don’t have to be giant ones.
Even baby steps in the right direction will make a huge difference in your quality of life.