Social distancing is the idea that decreasing overall social contact will help limit the spread of illnesses, such as COVID-19. But what about other, more prevalent illnesses? What about depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other illnesses that may be worsened by loneliness and isolation?
Here are 4 ideas for coping with loneliness as you try to help thwart the coronavirus.
#1 – Schedule times to contact your support system.
Depression in particular can make it really difficult to reach out and initiate contact. It can be hard enough to hold things together day to day, much less when you’ve been self-quarantined with nothing but you, your houseplant, and negative thoughts. Scheduling is a good way to restore a routine and sense of consistency. It also provides built in accountability and if you don’t check in at your appointed time or day then your loved ones know that they should initiate contact themselves. It takes away the burden of asking and fights the maladaptive thought “I’d just be a bother”. Plus it might help out other people in your circle who are struggling with loneliness
#2 – Hang out with friends and family.
But we can’t hangout?!
Wrong! You can’t hang out IN PERSON!
Modern technology provides a bunch of options for connecting over distance. While most people generally agree that spending time in person is better than digital contact, digital is what we have right now. Play charades over FaceTime. Sync up a Netflix show while you and your friends chat via Discord. Play games over PSN or Xbox Live. Talk on the phone while playing mobile games against each other. Personally I think it’d be great to watch a movie with friends over video chat with my popcorn safe from their grasp.
#3 – Utilize online resources.
Your therapist may or may not be using telehealth (most of us are trying to learn a lot in a short amount of time and thankfully many insurance companies have given emergency approval for telehealth) but if they are you may be able to continue seeing your therapist (or at least speaking with them). Additionally, many people find support in online communities such as TheMighty; Facebook groups devoted to specific illnesses, mental health, substance use disorders, etc; online NA and AA groups; or Reddit communities such as r/helpmecope. Granted, your mileage may vary and informal peer support isn’t the same as therapy, but that’s honestly true of any social interaction.
#4 – Find a new hobby.
Being at home and quarantined could be a great time to tackle a hobby you haven’t been able to find the time for. You may be limited on shopping, but if you have the supplies to paint, draw, knit, write, blog, whittle, try a new hair do, practice sasquatch calls (can you tell I’m running out of ideas?), try it out! Making progress and having tangible outcomes both enhance our feelings of agency and efficacy and have positive impacts on our mental health and both of those feelings are important when we’re facing a vague, global threat. Plus it might give you new online communities to browse and interact with.
At the end of the day we all have to navigate between patience and having an appropriate level of concern. While we may not be able to control events outside of our homes, we can control how we cope with our situation and how we act towards others. You may have to be alone, but you don’t have to be lonely.
This post about social distancing was written by Ross Hill, MMFT, LMFT, CAC-P.
Ross is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and addictions counselor. He enjoys working with couples & individuals and looks for opportunities to spread awareness about mental health. He believes that everyone has the strength to overcome the obstacles they face, with the proper tools. Ross will soon begin seeing clients at Modern Wellness Family Counseling in Spartanburg, SC.