After taking a break from writing, from doing live chats and from interacting with people during the past year due to unforeseen pandemic circumstances, I thought I would open up about what I personally have witnessed.
I have heard some people talk about how they have flourished, and that is great, but the people who seem to be better able at adapting during this time already had a social network in place. Unfortunately, many children, teenagers, college age students and parents were not exactly prepared for the long year of social isolation.
The word lonely is defined as a feeling of being alone, of feeling separated from others…but also, being unsure how to connect to those we feel are on the outside of our experience, our world. What if you couldn’t tell anyone about what you were going through mentally? How would that also isolate you? Is it possible to have feelings of chronic emptiness and no one even notice? It is indeed if you do not have a big social circle and then you take away in-person schools, work, meetings, worship and other ways that people connect with one another (even if you are an introvert, you still see people this way).
Before we experienced the COVID-19 Pandemic, social isolation was defined as a lack of social relationships or infrequency of social contact.
There could have been many causes such as:
- Unemployment (yes, this also happened this year causing feelings of shame or panic with loss of identity and income)
- Intimate partner trauma (people who are put down mentally or physically abused often start to shut down in order to avoid reliving the experience)
- Social media (some people use it to bully, shame, or make their lives seem more than they are and then replace it for actual in-person socialization)
- Mental health issues (social isolation can cause things like low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and more or you can feel the need to socially isolate in order to avoid talking about it)
- Living alone or away from others (sometimes this can be good, if you are wanting some space, but it can also lead to more feelings of isolation)
- Grief (loss of loved ones can cause isolation or the loss of friendships)
We have been told that loneliness is associated with a 40 percent increase risk in dementia as the person does not have people to speak to, and brain function may be on repetitive motions (going through the motions with no new experiences). We know that we do not actually do well in these situations, so if you have been feeling the isolation take it’s toll, here are some safe ways to try to get back in the swing of things.
Steps to get back to socialization:
- Call the people you missed while you “hunkered down”. Leslie Jordan, hey buddy. What’s up? But seriously, make a list of the people who you think might also have been affected during this time. Don’t be afraid to reach out. It was a weird time and it’s okay to say that you have been reflecting on lots of things and you really wanted to check on them. Make a regular phone date until you feel safe to chat face to face or whatever feels good for you.
- Start a NEW routine. This is important. The old one is likely not working for you. I know mine was not. I was feeling very weird. Very disconnected. Very much the need to just drop way down in my low energy and if you know me, you know this is not normal. I am going to be honest. Not many people noticed. I think that we need to remember though, that this was a tough year for all. It is possible that I needed to notice more as well, but we have been in survival mode. It was all I could do to keep my family’s energy on my radar as isolation for my 2 introverts was a bit more damaging than the extroverts. I didn’t realize how much that took away from my own energy until I admitted I had fallen pretty low one day. So I started morning walks. It is now a thing.
- Continue to work on healthy habits. Take away, fast food, or what not might be easy and convenient, but did you also put on the COVID-19? Hey, no shame in it. We were in survival mode. But if you were doing great before all of this and you feel like you slipped during the last year, start with changing one of those habits you let slip. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s alcohol. Whatever it is, don’t just let it keep sliding.
- Pamper yourself. If you have been living in pajamas for a while, again, no judgement, just a statement, go out shopping for something that makes you feel good. Book a pedicure. If you are still unsure about going out, order some new Epsom salts, or bath spa products and make a spa night at home. Buy yourself flowers or plant your own garden. I ordered 2 big raised beds and I have an herb garden now. Do something that makes you feel good and feel good about doing that. It is not time to feel guilty. Damn. We survived something I never thought we’d see in my lifetime. It felt like an apocalypse AND I’m a retired teacher. I don’t think even I could have survived “Zoom” school. That is just plain work and teachers, parents, and kids need to take a step back and give themselves a pat on the back for getting through that. But we need people. So back to that we go, thankfully.
It is important that if you still have some PTSD about getting back into society that you allow yourself some grace during this period; moreover, you allow those businesses opening their doors back after all this some grace as well. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, was in this together and we are all learning. I hope not to see the ridiculous amount of shaming I have seen over the last year on social media and for whatever reason we learn to be more accepting. Remember to go at your own pace and do the yoga, meditation, breathing, journaling, coloring, movie nights, baths, calling friends and all the self-care you need.
I have worked on myself for a very long time and it will continue until the day I die. We are going through a generational, life-changing event. I hope that my writing again will give you some peace and perhaps a different perspective. If you need an online group in order to help you feel more connected, please feel free to check out my group the Head|Heart|Health Club. << It is a place with online journaling tutorials, yoga, meditation, and more. Monthly live classes as well as some new surprises for this year. Stay well my friends.
Need more? Check out these articles:
- 5 Hacks to Relieve Anxiety and Blues for the Empath
- 5 Surprising Benefits of Meditation
- How can you control thoughts and prevent stress in these times?