FEELINGS OF ISOLATION: HOW TO DEAL WITH IT DURING THIS PANDEMIC
According to a meta-analysis conducted by Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience, a lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. The author of the said meta-analysis added that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.
Moreover, feelings of loneliness and social isolation, heightened by the current global health crisis, can have severe health consequences for a number of socio-economic groups. And it would persist long after the pandemic ends.
Of course, the meta-analysis and related studies stated above are not promoting pessimism but these are realities and possibilities which we need to accept as something we have little or no control at all. Thus, the compelling question we need to face is, how can we manage and regulate the feelings of isolation in a healthy and productive way?
Here are the following psychological and scriptural recommendations to take to deal with those issues and concerns.
Pursue spiritual growth – psychologically, we are born with spiritual needs that are needed to be satisfied and why not take advantage of this pandemic to deepen our spiritual consciousness which leads to the next tip;
Read comforting Bible passages – with all the negative and emotionally- draining news around nowadays, this may be the high time to read and mentally ruminate those passages which could breed positive thoughts and actions
Understand the meaning of the world events – we can deal better with any troubling situation if we know why bad things happen and how things will get better eventually
Avoid needless anxiety – knowledge is power and filling up our minds with subjects related to coping with anxiety can help us not to allow exaggerated emotions to overwhelm and cloud our clear thinking and sense of judgment.
Cultivate friendship – studies show that friendships benefit our mental and emotional health and are even more important when face-to-face connections are difficult and if we are confined at home, we may be able to use videoconferencing or voice call to maintain existing friendships and build new ones
Stay physically active – it can contribute to mental health which we especially need nowadays in the way we need physical health and being confined at home should not be a deterrent to physical exercise because we can still keep ourselves moving and build physical and mental resilience
These are just some of the many healthy coping mechanisms to take in order to live with and promote social and emotional connectedness amidst the social distancing in this time of public health crisis.
Interestingly, Dr. Eric S. Fromm, a humanistic psychoanalyst believed that feelings of isolation can be as old as ancient times when humans started to tear away from their prehistoric union with nature and left with no powerful instincts to adapt to a changing world, especially to this pandemic. However, because humans have at the same time acquired the ability to reason, they can think about their isolated condition- a situation that Fromm called “human dilemma.”
Ultimately, this dilemma which may be specifically brought by this pandemic is giving us the opportunity to whether we choose to cultivate and display reasoning ability or not. But rest assured that if we choose the former, we will be equipped to look for healthy ways to cope with feelings of isolation. This reasoning ability can give us mental strength and emotional stability to avoid undue anxieties and worries for those real and perceived threatening situations in the future which may or may never happen. And that reminds me of an old adage that goes like this, “JUST CROSS THE BRIDGE WHEN YOU GET THERE”.
Feist,J, Feist,G.J.( 2009) Theories of Personality, 7th Edition, The McGraw- Hill Companies
Holt- Lunstad, J. (2015) Perspective on Psychological Science. Vol.10,No.2,retrieved May 13,2020 11:00 am https://www.apa.org/monitor on psychology2019
How to Deal With Isolation, retrieved May 13,2020 10:00am
About the writer: Rommel A. Agbayani is a mental health advocate and an Associate Professor of the College of Arts, Sciences and Education of the Trinity University of Asia while serving as a regular guest/co-host since 2015 for the radio program, BANTAY OCW FOUNDATION being aired over DZIQ 990 Radyo Inquirer, providing psychological insights and counseling.