Coping with Isolation

May 11, 2020

How are you holding up with this quarantine? This is a very common question being asked currently with the events of the COVID-19 pandemic. These circumstances have created a sense of grief and loss on a global scale. Young, old, male, female, introverted, extroverted; everyone has been touched by the changes going on currently. Many people have canceled family events, weddings, funerals, birthday parties, holiday gatherings. These celebrations that help bring us together and give life meaning. We are also seeing people suffering from a loss of income due to jobs having to shut down or only operate at the bare minimum. Schools have been closed or are switching to an online format. Our very sense of structure and routine has been disrupted. It can be very hard to feel connected with loved ones, while also social distancing for their safety. What was considered to be “normal” has been completely turned upside down. Being cut off from so many things can create a sense of loneliness and isolation. These feelings are often associated with depression, anxiety, anger, or fear. Often, during times of distress it is helpful acknowledge the feelings of grief and loss as they come. Grief happens in five stages, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance (Kubler-Ross & Kessler, 2014). These stages may occur in any order and someone can experience a stage more than once. “Loss and grief do not occur in a vacuum. An individual’s grieving involves a continual process of negotiation among the various sociocultural influences specific to that person and to the environments in which she or he lives.” (Humphrey, 2009). But how can we cope with this loss when there is so much that seems to be keeping us apart? Here are some tips for helping with isolation.

  • Practice Mindfulness- It’s hard to address a problem when you do not realize there is a problem. Denial is one of the five stages of grief and loss. Acknowledging that these events are hard and create emotional distress can help open up a path towards healing and acceptance. Using tools like mindfulness can help to increase your sense of awareness. Mindfulness can be defined as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Allow yourself the chance to be upset about the things you have lost. It’s ok to miss things like going to the movies, work, or school. This can be helpful in reducing resistance, which can cause increased levels of distress. Journaling, meditation, breathing exercise, and talking to someone are just a few of many different tools you can use to acknowledge how you are feeling in the moment.
  • Make time for Self care- It can be very easy to get caught up in the daily grind of things. Making time for self care is very important in maintaining overall health and happiness. “Learning how to eat right, reduce stress, exercise regularly, and take a time-out when you need it are touchstones of self-care and can help you anti-stress, stay healthy, and be resilient.” (Davis, 2018). Self care can also involve taking hot baths, watching your favorite movie or show, going for a walk out in nature, engaging in creative projects, or even playing games. Reframing your mindset from “I’m stuck at home” to “I have a chance to relax and do things that I enjoy” can make a huge difference in getting through these difficult times.
  • Build connections- Connections are important tools in living healthy lifestyles. “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men, and children.” (Brown, 2010) We are in an age where staying connected with others can be done from the palm of our hands. There are many different apps and websites that allow us to video chat, play games, share pictures, and etc. There are even ways to watch movies and TV with friends without being in the same house. Even though there are things keeping us apart, there is so much more that can bring us together. Not only can we connect with our family and friends through these services, but there are many options for increasing health care options. Medical and mental health providers are becoming available through telehealth options. As we encounter problems that require us to stay distant, many health professionals have found solutions to still provide services to those who are in need. One option that can be very helpful in building connections is doing group therapy via video chat.
It is important to remember that there is no one set way of how to cope during this global pandemic. What may work for one person might not necessarily work for another. Paying attention to both mental and physical health needs is very important. It takes courage to reach out and ask for help. It may feel like you are alone in a sea of uncertainty, but there is still more that brings us together. Be mindful about where you are, take the time to practice self-care, and find ways to stay connected. We may find that we emerge from our isolation stronger than before.

References
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection. Center City, MN: Hazelden Publising

Davis, T. (2018, December 28). Self-Care: 12 Ways to take better care of yourself. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201812/self-care-12-ways-take-better-care-yourself

Humphrey, K. M. (2009). Counseling strategies for loss and grief. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditations in everyday life. New York: Hyperion.

Kubler-Ross, E. & Kessler, D. (2014). On grief; grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. New York: Simon & Schuster