Effects of Social Distancing on Mental Health
No one ever expected such a big pandemic to affect the entire world and cause people to self-isolate and social distance. The norms of everyday life were altered drastically and everyone’s daily lives were affected and changed in some way.
A study was conducted by exploring the viewpoints and experiences of five online groups across the United Kingdom during the initial phases of quarantine. The results showed that isolation and social distancing was significantly impacting individuals’ mental health. Dr.Kimberly Dienes of The University of Manchester's Centre for Health Psychology, who collaborated with Dr.Simon Williams, a public health researcher at Swansea University, and Professor Christopher Armitage also of The University of Manchester's Centre for Health Psychology said how a common theme was the feeling of loss, whether it was the loss of financial stability, structure and more. The study demonstrated how the loss of social interaction also led to further emotional losses, such as the loss of self-esteem and the drive in one’s life.
In an article on Huffington Post, Brittany Wong demonstrated there are individuals demonstrating “PTSD-like symptoms” as the fear aroused by the pandemic as well as social distancing can be a traumatic event for many. Furthermore, there are risks for increased rates of anxiety due to the worry about our health, as well as the possibility that the anxiety may develop into Agoraphobia, which is an anxiety disorder that induces those to fear leaving a safe place and feeling “trapped helpless or embarrassed” in another area. The lack of physical social support also heightens the feeling of loneliness, stress, and suicidal thoughts.
As an individual who struggled with an eating disorder, staying at home and not being able to go eat outside with my friends brought back some negative eating habits thus it was very hard to overcome this bump in the road once again. It also lowered my levels of self-esteem because I had more time on social media and I started to compare myself with others: for example, I felt compelled to lose weight when I didn’t need to just because everyone else was having their “quarantine glow-up” and doing all the online workout programs.
So here are a few ways to cope with social distancing
1. Maintaining a routine
Getting up at a similar time each day and having an allotted time for work hours and also having time to practice self-care is helpful for a transition to working from home and to maintain motivation. Also make sure to get enough sleep and exercise to a moderate level for your body.
2. Planning and eating all three of your meals!
It is crucial to eat all three of your meals in your day and to avoid skipping meals. What we eat impacts our brain and our mental wellness; hence, setting and following your meal times is a good way to make sure you nourish and fuel your body and brain.
3. Connecting with others
Feelings of isolation significantly increased after the pandemic because we have to physically social distance from others. Taking breaks by having audio or facetimes calls with your friends and interacting with them will help us manage feelings of loneliness.
4. Recognizing your feelings
It is important to realize that our feelings are valid. Humans crave social interactions and human connections, therefore it is normal that we feel lonely during this time of social distancing. Also, keep in mind that you are not the only person feeling this way.
YMHA Mental Health Network Coordinator & Contributer