Social distancing can have significant impacts on the mental health and well-being of individuals. As we all experience the uncertainty of our changing world in the presence of the Coronavirus, emotions and feelings are changing as well.
Long periods of isolation, regardless of the reason they are in place, can create increased anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness. The Center for Disease Control and Prevents reports that Increased stress around the pandemic can cause:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Worsening of mental health conditions.
- Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html)
If you or someone you know is struggling with the negative affects if social distancing and the pandemic here are some things you can try.
Do the things that bring you joy
Engage in hobbies, read a book, go on a walk, engage in car or home repairs- Do the things that bring you joy. You may notice that they don’t feel as amazing as they did pre-pandemic. That makes sense and it’s okay. It is important to connect to yourself and spend time doing things that are meaningful to you.
Use grounding techniques
Breathe. Practice the 4-7-8 method. Inhale for 4 seconds. Hold for 7 seconds. Exhale for 8 seconds. Heart rate slows down on the exhalation. It is important to exhale longer than inhaling to decrease heart rate and anxiety.
Use your five senses. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 Method. Notice 5 things that you can see in this moment. 4 things you can touch. 3 things you can hear. 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you are grateful for. These techniques can help you reset your nervous system.
Sometimes, when we are caught up in the cycle of anxiety, we have to remind our brain that we are actually safe in this moment. grounding techniques help to do this. Other grounding techniques include walking barefoot on the Earth, mindfully touching water, holding ice or counting by 7’s.
Quiet the mind
Practicing mindfulness is an important tool used to quiet the mind. This involves noticing what is happening in the present moment and observing, one mindfully, without judgment. There are many apps and online resources that can help with this. You can find guided meditations to help with sleep, anxiety, self-esteem, self compassion and more. Guided meditations can be a gentle invitation to help lead the way to inner silence.
Connect with others in ways that feel safe
Social distancing is hard! Pandemics are hard! Find opportunities to connect with others in a way that feels safe to you. This may include using online platforms to connect with people you love and care about. You can also connect with churches, recovery programs and counselors online via zoom and teletherapy. If it feel safe for you to meet in person outdoors, and or with masks, do that. Let your family, friends, congregation, recovery support people, know when you are struggling. This can be hard to do. Reach out.
The professionals tell us that if we are going to meet with others in person, it is safest to be outside. When we are outside we can re-center ourselves with nature. Let yourself get lost in the woods, by the water, at a local park, in your backyard. Touch the Earth. Walk barefoot in the sand. Watch the sunrise and or the sunset. Connect to the rhythms of nature.
Help is out there. All of us need support sometimes. It takes a village. Counselors are available to help via Tele-therapy online. Most health insurances cover this service. Some insurances are even waving co-pays to make it easier to access this health care. Sliding scales are available at many counseling centers and clinics. As we move through the pandemic it may feel like you are moving through stages of grief. You may notice moments of acceptance in some moments. You may notice feeling angry or sad and other moments. The pandemic is creating a loss and loss creates a cycle of grief. It is natural and human to seek support.
At Beyond the Mirror Counseling & Wellness, we provide individual, group, family and couples counseling services to residents of Colorado. We accept most major insurances including Colorado Medicaid & Rocky Mountain Health. We offer low cost visits on a sliding scale for individuals without insurance. We offer support groups for kids, teens and adults via teletherapy.
You are not alone.
Be well and create mindful moments of compassion in your life.