A Department of Health and Human Services report says nearly 30% of older adults in the U.S. live alone. With quarantines and self-isolation still being the best practice due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, coping with isolation during COVID is something many people are struggling with.
When it comes down to it, the unknown is scary. This is a new virus that we are still learning new things about every day, we don’t know when things will go back to some semblance of normalcy, and the constant influx of negative news is overwhelming.
Just try to take a deep breath. You’ll feel a little better after we lay out how this affects your mental health and how you can keep a glass half full kind of viewpoint on the situation.
The Psychological Toll
Even if you lived alone before the pandemic began, you probably have never felt so alone. Quarantines, self-isolation, and social distancing have made it extremely difficult to get that in-person interaction we all need (even if you’re more of an introvert you need some type of socializing every now and then).
The impacts of social isolation and loneliness are far-reaching. Believe it or not, it can cause both mental and physical problems that can snowball if not addressed. Those issues include depression, problems sleeping, a faster rate of cognitive decline, and immune system issues.
You might be thinking, “how is loneliness going to hurt me physically?” Here’s how it works:
Before things like lockdowns and quarantines started happening, you may have gone to regular social outings like golfing, hitting the local watering hole, or having big get-togethers with your friends. When all of those things stopped happening, you no longer had an outlet for those social interactions. That’s where you get a lot of verbal support and encouragement from those close to you.
Now you’re not getting all those little confidence boosters. This is where you start getting depressed. Once you are depressed, you might start developing some bad habits like unhealthy eating, smoking, excessive drinking, or not exercising, all of which are going to add physical problems to the mental ones.
Those bad habits and all of the uncertainty being dealt with also leads to cranking up your stress and anxiety levels. It’s not easy, but you can do several things to help keep from sliding down this slippery slope.
Ways to Stay Positive
Whether you’re in the high-risk category of contracting COVID-19 so you’ve chosen to stay at home or you’re quarantined because of exposure, you can start by addressing the issue that leads you down that path of depression or climb your way back up if you’ve fallen down.
One key here is to remember you’re not alone. This is normal. Feeling depressed, anxious, and stressed is a natural reaction to this giant mess we find ourselves in. Once you accept that your feelings aren’t uncommon, you can move on to some more active measures.
Losing the ability to be in a social situation whenever you want is one of the big things that lead to loneliness, whether that’s seeing your family or spending time with friends. While we can’t physically be around each other, you can still use technology to your advantage.
The phone that you’re probably reading this article on is an amazing tool. You’ve got access to any piece of information you could ever want to know at a moment’s notice. You can also get in touch with SOMEBODY in a number of ways at most times of the day.
Use video calling apps like Facetime, Zoom, Google Duo, or any other platform you can find. Talk to friends, your children and grandchildren, or even your doctor. While you might not be able to visit in person, you can still see them and chit chat without risking exposure to the coronavirus.
You can get all those little confidence-boosting conversations and get a little reminder that you’re loved by a lot of people.
Stay Informed, but Not TOO Informed
Let’s go back to all of the unknowns we are dealing with. That’s one of the main issues that can get you stressed out.
The best thing you can do to fight this is to learn everything you can about COVID-19, how you can help stop the spread, and what to do if you end up contracting the virus. Make sure you are learning the facts, though. Don’t go believing what you read on Facebook or just taking the word of somebody you know.
Misinformation is rampant, so when you hear something you have to make sure to validate that information. Go to a reputable source like the CDC or other reputable medical organization. Again, DO NOT TRUST what you read on social media. Always, always, always confirm it yourself.
While it is essential to have the facts, you also can’t keep scrolling through websites or have your eyes glued to the news all the time. Unplug from it all for a while. Limit the amount of time you’re spending taking in media about the pandemic to help keep your stress levels down. All of the doom and gloom will only make you feel more depressed and like this situation is going to continue forever.
If you’re having trouble staying in a positive mindset, sometimes doing an activity to get your mind on something else for a little bit can make a world of difference.
Get up off the couch or out of your favorite recliner and do a little exercising. You can take a walk or jump in the deep end and do some serious cardio and/or weight training. Getting your blood pumping and breaking a sweat will get some of those endorphins flowing, which give you that positive feeling.
Developing a hobby is another way to occupy your mind. Find something you can do at home or outdoors, and really get into it. You’ll get bonus points for an activity that exercises your mind at the same time.
Life’s a Garden, Dig It
We are dealing with a situation that hasn’t occurred in modern times. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and get frustrated and depressed with the circumstances. You’re not alone.
Making the best of things is going to help you push through these tough times. Use technology to your advantage to stay in touch with the people you’re close to, and keep yourself occupied. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.