Measures of social distancing and isolation have been put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus. In response to the pandemic, states and countries around the world have limited or banned unessential travel and activities, asking people to stay home.
In previous months, we have experienced severe lifestyle changes. Schools, universities, and businesses have gone entirely online; planes are landed, restaurants are closed, plans cancelled.
In recent years, we have become more digitally connected than ever before. Although many of us have already been working or studying remotely even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, social distance as a way of life is a strange idea for many. Social distancing comes with a mental health fallout. For many people, a lack of social contact is devastating.
What Does Social Distancing Mean?
Social distancing is one of the necessary measures of protection against COVID-19, and it involves reducing face-to-face interaction between people. It also means avoiding shaking hands and showing affection with gestures such as hugging and kissing. But many of us are concerned how can we live without warm hugs with our loved ones for such a long time?
Psychological Consequences of Social Distancing
Research shows that even a few weeks of isolation and social distancing can cause long-term stress and anxiety.
The COVID-19 pandemic provokes anxiety about illness and mortality. However, the ongoing crisis may also trigger long-lasting mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, depression, mood disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In many people, these disorders will develop after the pandemic is over.
Stay-at-home orders for many people mean a disrupted contact with their families, friends, and community.
Whether you are ordered to self-isolate in your home or quarantined in an unfamiliar place, spending too much time in social isolation can be a challenge. Besides, many people are confined to their homes in dysfunctional or abusive relationships, which may cause permanent psychological issues.
The Emotional and Cognitive Implications of Isolation
As human beings, we thrive on connection with others. Social interactions promote our well-being and happiness. Studies have shown that social relationships, love, and intimacy are the main factors that contribute to happiness and personal satisfaction.
Lack of social interactions can lead to anxiety and depression and negatively impact your self-esteem. In the aging population, social distancing can prompt dementia and accelerate the progress of cognitive deterioration. Research shows that social interaction helps improve memory and protects the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.
Social engagement is one of the vital factors in healthy aging. Socially active seniors experience many benefits, including better physical health, improved cognitive function, and good emotional health.
Social distancing and isolation do not mean that you cannot reach out and speak to family and friends. It is essential that you find ways to connect with other people even if you cannot be in face-to-face or physical contact. Fortunately, technology allows us to stay connected so that you can maintain closeness with the loved ones, even in difficult times of social distancing and self-isolation.
We might be asked to physically distance, but if we can and need to stay spiritually and emotionally connected.
Take care and keep healthy and positive,