Social Isolation, Loneliness and Anxiety

Social Isolation, Loneliness and Anxiety

Feeling lonely and anxious during the COVID-19 pandemic has become more prevalent due to the social distancing and self-quarantining restrictions. Uncertainty of the coronavirus outcomes causes anxiety, fear, and stress. Loneliness studies show it leads to poor physical and mental health, cognitive decline, heart disease, depression, excessive food and alcohol use, and even cancer mortality. According to Scientific America, loneliness can lead to a premature mortality rate of reducing a person’s life by 15 years. That is equivalent to the impact on obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

WHO DOES IT AFFECT?
Loneliness and anxiety do not only affect the elderly and singles. Generation Z (ages 7-22) and millennials, who primarily use texting and social media for communication, also experience the effects of loneliness. 

Different groups feel the impact of isolation depending on their circumstance:

  • Families who are suddenly facing time together under one roof. This can cause parents to feel isolated and alone as they try to hold everything together, including homeschooling children due to school closures, working from home due to work-from-home requests, and their typical household duties. 
  • Young adults who are suddenly living in their childhood home with their parents after years of living independently.
  • Couples (retired or working) who are isolated from their daily routines of gathering with friends.
  • Singles who live alone.
  • Those who suffer from chronic illnesses, immunocompromised patients, and elderly populations who can’t physically leave home.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIALIZATION
Socialization is considered crucial for your well-being and positive interactions with others. How many times have you noticed in the last few weeks that you wave enthusiastically to strangers as you pass them on your daily walks? You may even look out of your home office window at every car passing by, hoping for some socialization. Many situations have alerted our mental state that we want a connection with others. For example, discussions with people who are near retirement have decided that they aren’t quite ready after living through the COVID-19 pandemic. They miss their working relationships, water-cooler talks, and lunch meetings. College students who dreaded heading to their classroom suddenly yearn for socialization on campus. People are longing for a trip to the community coffee shop with friends or even strangers. One can only Marie Kondo their home, read so many books, and binge on Netflix for so long while trying to keep their sanity.

There is hope! Below are some useful strategies to use during this time:

  • You can increase socialization through social platforms such as FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype. 
  • A neighborhood phone tree can help check on those who are isolated, don’t have technical skills, or can’t leave their home for grocery shopping, daily walks or a pharmacy run. 
  • If you feel you need help, we are fortunate that telepractice has expanded to treat you in your home. This article explains in detail how to see a doctor without leaving your house: https://bit.ly/34WOFba
  • The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation offers free virtual therapy for mental health: www.borislhensonfoundation.org

During this time of uncertainty, it is normal to feel stress, anxious, or alone. Keep in mind that even though you feel isolated and alone, someone is willing to listen and talk. Reach out to a professional if you need help or to a friend for daily socialization.