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Managing Your Mental Health in a Time of Social Distancing

Mar 24, 2020 2 min read

Key Takeaways

  • It’s normal to feel stress while engaging in social distancing, on top of other COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
  • This stress can impact the mental health of each of us differently, and some groups are more vulnerable than others.
  • There are proactive measures people can take to decrease this stress.

 

 

Just a few weeks ago, most of us practiced something like “social distancing” if we needed to recharge after interacting closely with others, or had a simple cold bug and didn’t want to pass it along friends or family. But we have now entered a new way of life where social distancing is critical to slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and saving lives.

It’s necessary for as many of us as possible to practice social distancing, but it’s not easy to follow. We’re generally social creatures, and while we understand the need to limit in-person contact with each other—as much as for the health of others as for our own—we may also find this time to be stressful because of the isolation that comes from stopping day-to-day actions that bring people together.

According to the American Psychological Asssociation (APA)1 , this stress can impact our mental health in different ways. We may:

  • Experience fear and anxiety over this strange requirement of our new normal.
  • Feel lonely, bored, and sad that we can’t just go where we want to, when we want to, and interact with others in person.
  • Become angry, frustrated, or irritable about staying in—and take it out on those who may have exposed us to the virus or who have imposed restrictions on our activities.
  • Feel stigmatized, if exposed to or sick from COVID-19, given the public outcry (and despite lack of testing access).

And it’s harder for particular groups to manage the stress of social isolation, among them older adults who are more vulnerable to COVID-19; and those with mental health conditions who may experience increased anxiety and/or depression due to pandemic concerns. For others, like healthcare workers, isolation is not an option as they work on the front lines fighting the pandemic.

If we are among those who can self-isolate, the APA suggests ways to make it less stressful for ourselves and our loved ones:

  • Create and follow a daily routine, allowing time for work and play.
  • Limit news consumption to reliable sources and balance it with other activities, like reading, listening to music, or practicing a craft.
  • Take advantage of virtual ways to stay connected to people, like video conferencing.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle; exercise at home, eat healthy, find safe ways to get outside for a walk.
  • Manage stress levels by engaging with mental health apps, writing in a gratitude journal, meditating, or simply taking time to breathe.

Remember: we’re all in this together, dealing with an unprecedented challenge. Be kind to each other. For more information, please take advantage of the tools and resources available on the American Psychological Association’s Opens in new window website.

Provided by: Dr. Kristin Tugman, PhD, CRC, LPC, VP, Health and Productivity Analytics and Consulting Practice, Group Insurance

 

Footnotes

1“Keeping your distance to stay safe.” American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/dmhi/research-information/social-distancing Opens in new window. Retrieved March 17, 2020.

 

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