Five months ago, we were pushed to the confinement of our homes, away from our jobs and schools, and sternly told to stay put from our distant families and friends. The virus and pandemic basically halted our world as we know it and has seriously put a damper on our social life! Being cooped up with limited social interaction can really take a toll on our mental and physical health.
Our young adults venturing back to college are questioning the validity of attending their fall semester. Even though they can physically live on campus, most cannot physically attend class. Mandatory online instruction is robbing our students of their expected collegiate experience of meeting new friends, studying, eating, and hanging out together, attending activities and gathering at sporting events. Their new adult venture holds a social deficit that questions taking a semester off to see if all will be back to normal by spring term.
Social isolation can bring about huge bouts of loneliness, anxiety, heart disease, dementia, loss of motivation, and even death. We crave social interaction to bring about better mental health and emotional stability. Hanging out and confiding in others creates a lighter mood, a happier self, a safety net, and develops a sense of belonging and security. And social engagement is associated with a stronger immune system, especially for older adults.
Conforming to this new norm has been somewhat easier with the use of technology. Face time, video chat, texting, phone calling, etc. has certainly saved us from insanity and has provided a loving stream to see and hear family and friends. Being in a smaller community, I think, has provided most of us with the opportunity (following COVID guidelines of course), to continue to work and play. As spring moved into summer, we stepped outside the front door into the great outdoors to golf, play pickle ball, ride bike, swim, boat, garden, etc., at a safe social distance. And the warmer temperatures brought lots of Vitamin D, a healthy benefactor for our physical and mental health.
Other ways to fight social depression from isolation? Exercise boosts your endorphins and decreases stress hormones. Daily walks with your favorite podcast or audible is the best therapy ever. Or take in the sights and sounds of nature, and really see your surroundings. Meditation is huge. With a guided gratitude meditation ten minutes a day, you can improve your mental health, find emotional regulation, be less depressed and increase your resiliency. Practice yoga, or curl up with a favorite book. What other ways can you find to relax, and make it a daily habit to keep the stress and anxiety away?
We ponder the pressure of the unknown. How long will we be kept at more than an arm’s length? Will we lack support, be less compliant the longer it goes on? This pandemic and its distancing requirements have certainly outstayed its unwelcome invite, and our priority is to stay healthy and be safe, one day at a time. The old norm as we used to know it, will soon follow, and we will be back to our nurturing social contact familiarity.