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Now We All Know What Social Isolation Feels Like

Let's not forget this "shut-in" feeling as we strive to help others

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Lonely?  Anxious?  Stressed? Frustrated that you can’t go out and about when and where you wish.  Miss seeing family and friends?  Now we know what millions of people have been experiencing every day – pre-COVID. COVID is teaching us empathy, whether we like it or not.

Remember the word “shut-ins”?  I don’t hear that term much anymore but it basically referred to someone confined inside their home.  Often it was due to age, or mental or physical disability.  We would point to a house and say “Alice lives there.  She’s a shut-in.” Too often, we simply left it at that, and didn’t do too much to intervene other than an occasional visit. Unfortunately, it became a bit of “out of sight, out of mind” in many communities.

My mother was not a shut-in but once she lost the ability to drive, her social network decreased significantly.  She was dependent on others, losing the ability to go out on her own such as shopping, where and when she wanted.  I remember her saying, “It’s the nights that are hard, Johnny.”  Indeed, how many of you are wondering what time it is in the evening?  The days seem so long – and then you wake up and do the same thing the next day, and the next day…for who knows how long?  Yes, it is like Groundhog Day and it gets depressing.  Do you feel like you have lost some control?

How many of you thought you’d catchup on all those unread books and home improvements you’ve been meaning to do?  After a couple days, that gets old, doesn’t it?  Who really wants to clean out the garage or closets?!

Social isolation impacts our physical, mental and psychological health.  Data consistently shows loneliness’ impact on development of depression, anxiety, heart disease and dementia.  It decreases both quality of life as well life-expectancy.

Because of locked-downs and stay-in-place orders, we all have become shut-ins, and in so doing have experienced first-hand what friends and loved ones have been experiencing for quite some time.  Hopefully, we will become more attuned to those who face isolation and loneliness and make more of an effort in reaching out to help.  

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