The Mental Health Implications of Social Distancing

Social distancing and self-quarantining have become ubiquitous with the first quarter of 2020, and they will likely remain a topic of discussion for weeks to come.

These practices help keep you and others safe, and ultimately do more good than harm. However, it’s important to understand that social distancing does come with its mental health complications, particularly when you factor in extended periods of isolation. Here’s what you need to know: 

Understanding Social Nature Among Humans

Humans are social creatures. Our brains have mirror neurons that mimic one another’s brain activity when engaged in storytelling and communicating. We rely on social interaction to feel stimulated and purposeful. Human touch also releases oxytocin, the hormone that guides social interaction, influences trust, and ignites sexual reproduction. During a time when people are expected to stay at least six feet apart, this can be especially stressful. 

According to research, those who are more at risk for mental health issues related to social distancing include those aged between 16-24, those who have a history of illness, women, and those with a single child. Individuals who have experienced past traumas may also be at risk, as those traumas may start to resurface in isolation. Lastly, elderly people are also more vulnerable to mental health side effects of loneliness. 

Impact of Chronic Fear 

As we all come to grips with what’s happening in the world around us, it’s natural to feel inundated with fear. This is all the truer when you combine it with the fear of the unknown; not knowing when you’ll be able to resume your normal daily routine can only compound your fear and anxiety. Fear is an internal and conscious feeling that arises when your brain’s sensory system senses a threat. This arouses the stressors in your body, activating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and autonomic nervous system. When the HPA axis experiences alterations, it can result in conditions such as fibromyalgia, insulin resistance, and chronic pain. 

Pain Management Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak 

On the surface, social distancing may seem like a mental challenge, but what you may not realize is that it can exacerbate existing conditions and manifest as physical pain. For instance, people suffering from depression tend to experience more long-lasting pain than others, even when they have the same conditions. The overlap between anxiety and pain has been noted by many researchers and scientists. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created economic turmoil in countries around the world. Many Americans are even avoiding visits to the hospital—a trend that’s been prevalent over the past few years but has grown recently. Some individuals refrain from seeking treatment at clinics and hospitals out of fear for coming in contact with the virus. This means that many Americans suffering from chronic pain—roughly 50 million—may not be getting the help they need. And with the overlapping opioid epidemic, turning to treatments such as painkillers may not be the best long-term solution. 

“Our team designed the Energy Cell to address common pain issues that people around the world face,” says Jan Wellmann, CEO of WaveLife. “We compiled decades of research in vital fields and developed a wearable patch that relieves pain by stimulating the natural electromagnetic vibrations in the body to aid in cell regeneration.” 

“We recognise the importance of having effective pain management solutions that are versatile, and can be used in the home,” says Wellmann. “Furthermore, in a day and age where astronomical healthcare costs continue to rise, we also want to support cost-effective solutions. And lastly, we strive to provide a treatment that isn’t addictive and doesn’t result in lifestyle consequences.” You can purchase the Energy Cell here

Improving Mental Health During Social Distancing

With the proliferation of social distancing, new methods of managing communication and social networking are becoming more mainstream. When it comes to managing mental health, you can break down strategies into two categories: mindful practices and social practices. 

To boost social well-being, make an extra effort to stay connected. Zoom sessions, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger Video Chat are all great ways to keep visual contact. But you can also supplement those video calls with fun and entertaining ways of keeping connected. For example, the Houseparty mobile app allows users to video call while playing several mobile games. The Chrome extension Netflix Party allows users to watch a movie together with synchronized viewing and chat capabilities. Why not watch movies that help you during self isolation?

For mental health and stimulation, meditation and yoga are two highly effective practices. Numerous studies have shown the powerful impact that meditation can have on mental health. Fortunately, there are several meditation apps that help guide beginners and keep them accountable for daily practice. Similarly, you can find both paid and free yoga lessons online. You may even opt to combine the mental and physical health benefits of yoga with health benefits by joining your friends for virtual yoga class. 

If you have elderly people in your life, take an extra step to reach out to them and give them social stimulation they need from a distance. Furthermore, remember that routine plays a key role in protecting your mental health. With your normal routine shifting so heavily, create a new routine where best mental health practices play a more central role, and make an effort to prioritize those needs. Although humans are social creatures, humans are also very adaptable creatures. With the right structure, you can learn to make the most of any situation. 

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