Self-isolation, social distancing — even the words sound frightful. Stay indoors! Avoid contact with others! Scary, right?
Social interaction is an integral part of human society. Humans enjoy being around people. Well, we are social animals, after all. And beyond this, we have been wired from childhood to interact with other people via the social institutions of schools, workplaces, or social gatherings.
And though it might take the onslaught of a pandemic to reveal this, the urge to see, to hold and feel, is only natural
In light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), social distancing and isolation are some of the measures employed by the government to curb its spread. To a great length, these new protocols (staying 2 meters apart and self-isolation) are vital, but may not be natural.
This lifestyle change threatens the already established bonds and, if left unchecked, it might take a toll on one’s mental health.
How Does Social Distancing Affect Mental Health?
Even when you’re completely healthy, not interacting with others can hurt your physical and mental health. Studies indicate that isolation can cause arthritis, lupus, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. And if you suffer from anxiety, you’re even more at risk for a mental disorder. And that’s in a normal lifestyle setting.
Now add the present coronavirus culture, the impact will be more dramatic! Several studies connect social distancing and health risks. Recent reports have only served to confirm the obvious. While there are many side effects of social distancing self-isolation, one major one is poor sleep quality. It is believed that humans sleep better while in social isolation, the reverse is true.
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When you went all-in on social distancing, did you notice that you had plenty of time to sleep? You probably enjoyed the first week (or two) since you had enough time to sleep.
However, what changed? You started battling with irregular sleeping patterns which in turn affected the quality of your sleep.
Asides impaired executive function and accelerated cognitive decline, do you know that self-isolation increases the risk of premature death?
In 2019, the American Cancer Society discovered that the risk of premature death became higher with increased social distancing. This conclusion was made after studying over 500,000 adults. For specific races (black participants), self-isolation doubled the risk of early death. For other races (white participants), it drastically increased the risk of death.
Who would have thought that something as simple as self-isolation could be this risky physically? Yet, that’s not all.
Further reports have shown that your social distancing can expose you to risks similar to that of physical inactivity and obesity. Why not? Since you don’t move a lot, you put your health at risk. And this can, in turn, have a serious effect on your mental well-being.
With increased inactivity comes an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Also, the more socially distant you are, the more your chances of sliding into bad eating habits. With little next to no contact with family and friends, there’s no one to check these habits. And with that comes loneliness, increased risk of ill health, and high-stress levels.
In addition to this, worry and anxiety steps in while good health steps out. Overall, mental disorders gradually creep in.
According to psychologists, there’s a gamut of emotions and pressure at the moment; and it will evolve. The more you can’t engage or connect with others, the more impact it will have. But the good news is that you can take care of your mental health while self-isolating.
How to Support Your Mental Health
Since man is a social being, cutting off interactions puts you at risk of several chronic diseases. There is also proof that self-isolation strongly links to high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, and cellular aging.
However, the chances are that you’re self-isolating to avoid contracting the disease. And this is why you’re spending more time at home rather than at the office, school or mall with loved ones.
If you can’t do anything about staying indoors, you can do something about staying healthy, right? In light of this, what can you do?
1. Accept the situation, and acknowledge that it’s frustrating
Well, it is! Denial can halt personal growth. If you don’t acknowledge your situation, you won’t be sane enough to deal with the effects of isolation.
2. Stay connected
Self-isolation doesn’t mean social isolation. You can communicate with your family via phone calls, FaceTime, text, and so much more.
While you may not be able to visit them, connecting through this medium will prevent frustration caused by loneliness and the feeling of missing someone.
However, while your phone can help you stay in touch, it can also put you at risk of getting addicted to the news and conspiracy theories on social media. As much as possible, avoid focusing on information that makes you worried.
3. Solve a Puzzle
Now that you’ve got plenty of time, in isolation, there are several activities you can do. But one thing you can do to help boost your mental health is solving a puzzle. There are several benefits of solving puzzles, in case you’re wondering. Let’s see a few of them:
- It helps to strengthen the connection between your brain cells which in turn improves your memory
- It raises IQ levels
- When you keep your brain active with puzzles, you reduce the level of damage to your brain cells, a condition suffered by Alzheimer patients
- Your productivity increases as your stress levels decrease
4. Learn Something New
Now that you have enough time to do things you never had time to do (okay, maybe not enough time if you’re a mother of three), you can learn something new.
You can learn a new skill by taking some free courses online. Also, you can read a book or listen to that podcast. If you do this, you’re strengthening your mental health as you put your brain to use.
5. Reorganize your home
With the world at war now and the government and health officials trying hard to win this battle, you can do your bit by making your cleaning your space. Reorganize your home, do away with junk, and create an environment that keeps your mind and body at rest.
6. Watch what you eat
Did you know that the foods and drinks you consume affects how you feel? This is emphasized by the effects sugar and caffeine has on your body. Similarly, your food intake affects your mental health. To maintain stable mental health, take lots of water and food containing a balanced mix of nutrients.
As you spend more time self-isolating, stay aware of your mental health. If you’ve noticed a decline in your mental health, catch the slide by using the tips above. And if you feel you’re mentally sound, use the tips mentioned above to remain in top shape.
Finally, set your mind on the bright side. See social distancing and self-isolation as a short term approach designed for you to reconnect with your inner self.
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