Social distancing has meant taking a hit to our normal social activities. In order to flatten the curve, we are asked to forego our school classes, gym classes, worship services, meals out at restaurants with friends, and more in favor of staying at home and only going out for absolute necessities. Unfortunately, some have interpreted this message to mean they shouldn’t socialize with anyone at all in any way, and it is starting to take a toll on our mental health. Before the pandemic, 52% of Americans said they felt lonely at least some of the time, and social distancing has exacerbated this problem. Fortunately, it is possible to maintain social connections in the wake of social distancing.
Loneliness Is An Epidemic – And It Kills, Too
Years ago multiple decades of family members would all live together under one roof, so there was little chance to ever become lonely. Now people live alone more than ever, and our society doesn’t exactly encourage people to reach out to those who may be different from them for companionship. Some of the reasons people give for their self-isolation include:
- 61% report lack of shared interests
- 58% report a belief that no one really knows them
- 52% report feeling left out
- 49% report not having friends
As working from home becomes the norm, the loneliness epidemic is likely to balloon. Last year 10% of people working from home reported feelings of loneliness, and as people struggle to balance their shifting responsibilities with the new responsibilities that come along with the threat of a global pandemic, loneliness is likely to become an even bigger threat.
Social interaction is vital to human health. Without it we can suffer increased stress loads, which lead to increased cortisol levels, which lead to increased A1C levels and higher blood pressure. Over time these issues can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, cancer, Type II Diabetes, and more.
Find Balance To Fight Isolation
Just because you can’t do the things you are used to doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to have quality human interaction and physical activity. It’s still perfectly ok to go for a walk in your neighborhood as long as you are maintaining good social distancing measures. You can even talk to your neighbors when you see them – you’re not prohibited from having a conversation from six feet away.
Check with your local parks and waterways. Oftentimes it is still possible to go hiking on trails, canoeing in streams, and biking on bike paths as long as you maintain social distance. Getting out into nature with fresh air is a great way to fight stress.
Most importantly of all, make sure you are taking the time to call your friends and loved ones regularly. Pick a time each day and call one or two people to check in and see how they are doing. Having regular human interaction in your life is crucial, even if it can’t be done face-to-face.
Remember, This Situation Is Temporary
Temporary might be for a long time, but social distancing isn’t going to last forever. Learn more about social distancing without feeling isolated below.