What we are learning with the Coronavirus pandemic is that people need people. I know what people are going through. Most disabled people do know. We know all too well… because all this? It is the cost of disability. 

  • We know financial insecurity
  • We know losing our jobs
  • We know financial instability when we lose our jobs
  • We know worrying about our health
  • We know a boatload about stress
  • We know to lose our jobs and being isolated can cause a disturbance in our self-worth and identity
  • We know being isolated can do a number on our mental wellbeing especially when we under constant stress

Social Isolation and mental wellbeing

And one thing I have learned from chronic illness, isolation and depression is that my mental health and wellbeing are vital. People often do not think much on things to do to take care of their mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing but I tell you I have thought about it a lot, as has everyone with a chronic illness just trying to cope day by day. And our solutions to this complex problem are all different but get us through.

One thing we all know is that isolation can make us mentally feel worse, especially if we have comorbid mental illness. Even if we are introverted… hell, that just makes it easier to self-isolate and be unaware of the issues that sneak up on you. And being forced to isolate I know a lot of us will be very aware of these issues and doing our best to combat them in all the ways we have learned to cope.

Loss of control

There is this idea we have that we are in control of our lives. That we can control the outcome of events and prevent bad things from happening. Chronic illness and disability tell us, no, we do not have control. We do not know when our health will fail us. When we lose our jobs. When we lose our financial stability.

And that is scary as all hell. We want control. We all want that sense of Control over our Destiny and the glimpse of the fact we Do Not have it… is terrifying. I get that. Like is unpredictable and we have to live with that unpredictability… now more than ever. With much more stress and worry. I know. I live there. Immersed in the stress of it.

We cannot control

  • Who is self-isolating
  • Who is social distancing
  • Knowing what will happen
  • Knowing how others will act
  • Knowing others motivations
  • Knowing how others will react
  • How long this will last
  • The impact this will have long term

We must instead focus on the things we can control

  • My own self-isolation if I need to
  • My own social distancing if I need to
  • My own actions
  • My own reactions
  • Taking care of my own wellbeing
  • Doing my own self-care

If you have lost work and find yourself at home and thinking too much it may lead to self-identity issues but our self-identity is more than what we Do and it is very fluid throughout our lives. This is a time to think about who you are without work. And appreciate that person. It can also affect our self-worth and self-esteem and I find when we find productive things we Value to replace work and distract ourselves that can help combat that.

One thing we cannot control is if we get laid off from work and that is frightening. And stressful but it is out of our power right now. We have to do what we must, get through, hope we get back with that employer or find another. Take it step by step. Work on a new budget. Cut down some things. And do the best you can. That is all we can do in situations like this. It is a High Stressor… so we have to manage the stress the best we can.  Take help when we need it (Government programs, bank programs, help from relatives… whatever it takes). This is something that I have dealt with for a long time now. It is a hard one for sure. And you think you have solutions and sometimes you just don’t. Sometimes there is no ‘fix’.

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The emotional toll of a crisis

No one is immune to the emotional toll of a crisis in our personal lives or one in the world around us.

I have gone through it a number of times and I am still not immune to it. It hurts. A lot. I worry. A lot.

  • I have a lot of anxiety about my loved ones and friends getting sick
  • I am terrified someone I know and care about will die… that gets to me
  • I have so much empathy for those who Have lost people and couldn’t even be there for them in the hospital when they died to say goodbye or have a proper funeral. It really gets to me. All the pain all over the place.
  • I feel angry at some people Indifference to the suffering of others or the risks
  • I have a lot of worry about finances and my spouse’s job security short term and long term
  • I worry about my country and economy

And this creates a lot of overthinking and anxiety. I have Major Depressive Disorder and Overthinking is a skill I excel at. Along with catastrophizing. I ace that. So I have to watch myself. I know I am getting overly anxious when I am thinking too much about it all and seeing too much about it… and being bombarded with it and I just can’t Stop seeing it everywhere… so I can’t Help but think about it.

Social isolation and mental wellbeing

Things that will help with the stress and anxiety

Trust me I know some things that will help with the anxiety and stress of this situation. I am a worrier. I am an overthinker. I know ways to cope with this.

  1. Finding things to distract me at home
  2. Limiting my exposure to news and shows about the coronavirus
  3. Focusing on what I am thankful for (doing a gratitude journal)
  4. Stop engaging in too much social media that is bombarded with this coronavirus
  5. Start a journal to work through your thoughts, worries and emotions
  6. Try meditation
  7. Try relaxation breathing
  8. Do your hobbies or start a hobby to focus on
  9. Listen to music
  10. Go for a walk… but social distancing
  11. Exercise

We have to take care of our mental health because we are stuck in our houses. We are stuck in our ‘headspace’ and we cannot get out and about to expel some of that energy like we otherwise would. Or work and distract ourselves like we otherwise would. So we have much more time to think, much fewer things to do…. and it is a bad combo.

Social Connection

My psychologist always recommended for my depression (and my self-isolation due to depression) to socialize. Even though I was in chronic pain… he said I would be in pain at home… or I could be in pain socializing within my limits out with friends. And he had a point. Even introverts like me need social time with actual people sometimes… just not as much. And this outlet is Gone. So we need to substitute it with other ways of communicating with people we trust, care about, and need to connect with.

Whether that is by text, or phone, or Facetime, or Skype… whatever way you can, just stay connected. Not every day… unless you’re extroverted, then you might want to touch base with someone every day. But definitely every week or so.

Look at my post Coronavirus: Tips on beings stuck at home where I mention:

Things I can tell you right now:

  1. Stick to some sort of routine
  2. Go to sleep at the same time. Get up at the same time.
  3. I always recommend getting out of the PJs and into clothes… even if they are just comfy ones… just makes you feel more productive.
  4. Make goals for the next day or week
  5. Have a plan for the day
  6. I recommend 15 minutes of housework a day- more if you’re healthy and want to, of course.
  7. Keep occupied

And I recommend these things because it is easy to slip into … slowing down, oversleeping, lethargy, stagnation and less productivity. And then motivation just slips away.

And that is fine for a few days here and there. A few hours here and there. But too long and that is when you get anxious and melancholy and mood issues arise and self-worth suffers. We need things to fill the void we find fulfilling. It is important. Much more important than you may think. As important as staying connected to people. We have to keep busy and it has to be things that we find worthwhile.

Self-care

Self-care is vital and not selfish… one has to take of themselves before they can take care of others.

Self-care can be immediate needs- like taking care of yourself if you are sick. Self-isolating and caring for yourself.

Self-care can be maintenance and social distancing to ensure others like your family and neighbours do not get sick… and keeping your house sanitized. Or distracting yourself with a book. Or journaling your thoughts.

Self-care can be taking care of social, mental, or emotional needs… like connecting with family and friends, working on a gratitude journal, blasting some tunes to boost your mood. De-stressing with an Epsom salt bath. 

There are lots of ways to keep yourself and your family mentally, physically, and emotional wellbeing as best it can be while you are socially isolated.

Mental Illness

Mental illness and COVID19 meme

Like I said I have Major Depressive Disorder and this is the sort of situation that amplifies it. It can be a bit of a trigger for us with mental illness and chronic illness… who do not want to deal with isolation and More stresses. I do not have anxiety for Me… but my anxiety for Others. My worrying and anxiety for others I care about and worrying about the future. Maybe because I have been isolated for a bit since the vestibular symptoms have been so severe.

We especially have to be careful to do our self-care. Our relaxation breathing. Or meditation. Or journaling or gratitude journal. Whatever works for us… to manage the intensity of our thoughts. Distraction also helps a lot. Working on our hobbies to turn off our thoughts.

And I have to understand intrinsically I cannot control everything. The world is not on my shoulders. I have no power here. I have to just be calm. Control what I can. And then I will have to be prepared for what will come in the future. Whatever that may be… as unpredictable as that is.

And constantly I work on calming myself down. Relaxing. Controlling my breathing. Doing some short meditations. Until I calm down again. And repeat as needed.

Final thoughts

  • Not every day has to be productive
  • Some days a PJ day and movie binge is just fine too
  • You can be silly and goofy- stress reliever right there
  • Cabin fever is a thing- sit outside, get some sun.
  • Isolations sucks. We all hate it. But trust me, many of us have endured it for a long, long time and survived because we had to. It can be done. We will all get through this.
  • Just be aware of your mental wellbeing and your family’s mental wellbeing
  • Fear is normal but do not ruminate on it. It can be powerful.
  • Make wellbeing a focus in your life. Do something every single day that is for your mental, emotional or physical wellbeing. It helps.

Please take care of yourselves and be well!

See also

Coronavirus: The chronic illness view

Chronic stress and the body

Gratitude journal

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6 thoughts on “Social isolation and mental wellbeing

  1. Dear Nikki;
    One of my thoughts has been, that this is not a change for those of us dealing with disability. We are already quarantined and feel isolated. We already must find ways to keep busy at home. This is one of the few times that I see an up side to my disability. I can help with suggestions for others, because I am a pro at this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Like you said, the isolation part for many of us with health issues is fairly normal, but it really is such a worrying time. I’m finding it difficult to switch off from it and am trying so hard to find distractions.

    Liked by 1 person

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