Coping With Self-Isolation Anxieties
As the Covid-19 coronavirus continues to spread around the world, experts are advising self-isolation and social distancing as strategies to stem its spread. While these are the necessary, responsible steps to undertake in this situation, that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. In fact, they come with their fair share of adjustments and anxieties. But for all the difficulties self-isolation and social distancing may have, it’s important to understand why these drastic measures are necessary in the first place.
Why do We Need to Practice Self-Isolation?
Covid-19 spreads primarily through touch. This isn’t limited to direct human-to-human contact though. According to various studies, the virus can survive on various surfaces anywhere from 48 hours to several days. Erring on the side of caution, experts have agreed on a window of 15 days for the virus to survive outside the body.
However, the danger isn’t simply in people who are infected. Even if the virus hasn’t entered our body, we might be carrying it on our skin. The virus can transmit through many things––handshakes, hugs, cash––anything and everything that may come in contact with our skin.
To make things even more complicated, it’s also possible that we can test positive and be asymptomatic. This makes it even more difficult to contain, as no amount of disinfection will remove the virus until it has run its course.
The reality is, it’s next to impossible to avoid touching everything when we’re out in a crowded place. And there is no way to know if someone is carrying the virus. Which makes self-isolation a genuinely responsible step.
But that is easier said than done.
What is Isolation Anxiety?
Humans are social animals. We are evolutionarily designed to seek comfort in groups. In prehistoric days living in groups ensured our survival from predators. While that is no longer true, our instincts remain the same as our ancestors.
Being alone for too long makes the brain fear for the body’s survival and can be a source of chronic stress. Combine that with the added anxiety over our health coupled with uncertainty about what the future holds, and our brain has a difficult time deciphering the level of appropriate stress. If we feel isolated during these stress triggers, it’s possible for these states of anxiety to perpetuate, leading to further physical and mental health issues.
Isolation may be counterintuitive for our brain, but it’s also necessary in this unique global situation. Therefore it’s necessary to prepare our body and mind. Here are five ways to help us cope while we isolate.
How to Cope with Isolation
- Form routines and stick to them.
The brain finds comfort in habits and routines. When we maintain a similar routine every day, it signals to our brain that all is well. This helps it stay out of the stressful survival mode.
Approach each day as if we are still going to work. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time. Eat on the same schedule. Take breaks and connect with co-workers to give our brain continuity, lowering our stress levels.
- Take care of your physical and mental health.
While a healthy lifestyle is necessary even in normal times, in self-isolation they become a source of solace for our brain and helps us cope with the added anxieties. It releases good hormones in our brain and suppresses stress-inducing chemicals.
Be sure to fit regular exercise into our daily routine. Even if we can’t go outside, it’s important to get our bodies moving, which means finding creative ways to get our work-outs in––which is also a workout for the brain!
Eat nutritious, home-made meals. Stay away from harmful habits like smoking. A healthy lifestyle not only calms our brain but also boosts immunity, which in turn can help fight viral infections.
- Engage in hobbies and activities.
In the rush of our daily lives, we often disconnect from the things we truly enjoy. Many of us have lists of things we need or want to do, and for one reason or another, put off. Now is the perfect opportunity to revisit that list.
Take the online course we’ve never had time for. Open the closet with painting or sewing supplies and make new art. Brush up on those half-forgotten guitar skills, try new recipes, organize closets, or clean the house. Not only does this help keep us busy, but it helps reduce stress.
- Journal your worries.
Despite the measures we take, it’s natural for worries to seep in, particularly with the abundance of media and news sources at our disposal. Journaling is an effective and expert-sanctioned way of dealing with this.
Keep a notebook and a pen handy, and scribble down the negative thoughts whenever they come to mind. Or use an app or voice recorder to speak them aloud. The medium doesn’t matter as articulation is the goal. Once the thought gets out of our brain’s pathways, it ceases to build up inside our head.
Often, simply writing our worries down gives us the release we need. But other times we need to spend further time with our thoughts. Set aside time to review the journal, and if appropriate, analyze what’s written. Journaling gives us the tools to clear our minds, allowing us to focus on the present instead of being lost in worry or stress.
Our brains need exercise, just like our bodies. And meditation is a great brain workout. It trains our minds to declutter and redirects our focus. Having better control over our brain is half the battle when it comes to stress and anxiety. There are a number of excellent apps for assisted meditation, in addition to countless online tutorials. Find the technique or method that works best for you, and always choose a well-rated and expert-recommended program.
Feeling isolated and alone can make stress feel overwhelming, along with triggering higher levels of anxiety in all of us. But social distancing and self-isolation doesn’t mean we can’t connect with others or take care of ourselves. Remember to focus on self-care and take comfort knowing we are all experiencing the same thing. Through a global effort of social distancing and self-isolation, we are helping our communities survive and thrive.