By: Stephanie Ferroni, APN, of Voorhees Behavioral Health, Jefferson Health New Jersey
Social and emotional support are paramount to everyone’s mental health. Now, during the crisis of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it seems to have become clearer than ever that human connection is often taken for granted.
Social distancing and self-isolation, while important to our safety, has limited our human contact – an outlet that plays a huge role in reducing stress, including the stress placed on us by the pandemic itself.
If you’re experiencing feelings of loneliness more than usual, know that it is natural. Humans innately crave to give and receive affection; this desire for physical connectedness is often referred to as “skin hunger.” If you are stuck at home, you may become affection deprived, and are more likely to experience feelings of loneliness, irritability, heightened stress, difficult sleeping and poor concentration. You may even begin to make unhealthy choices.
Additionally, one of the longest human studies, conducted at Harvard University (from 1938 to 2012), revealed that happiness is derived from meaningful relationships, and not material items.
For those struggling with depression (of which loneliness is only one symptom), social distancing may pose even more of a detriment. It may trigger social anxiety, fear of rejection, low self-esteem, self-doubt, doubts about the world around them, and many other negative thoughts.
It can be more difficult for those with depression to cope with this kind of crisis and return to normalcy once it’s over. They may remain stuck in the “fight or flight” phase of panic. If they relapse, they may continue to feel anxious over losses they suffered as a result from the quarantine, such as financial loss, social loss, missed opportunities or trips, or damaged relationships.
If you are currently in treatment for depression, it’s important to stay on track. Continue to take any prescribed medications and use telehealth to speak with your provider. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support; we are here for you.
If you know someone who struggles with depression, or simply someone who lives alone and hasn’t reached out, try to offer emotional support whenever possible. Be available to talk or listen to them. Encourage them to exercise as a way to release natural endorphins. Bring up lighter topics to discuss and reinforce the importance of practicing self-care and taking breaks from the news.
Above all else, remember, this is uncharted territory for all of us, and you’re not alone. COVID-19 has not completely taken away our ability to socialize, but we must adjust our ways of doing so. With can use the technology at our disposal to text, call, or video chat with our friends and loved ones. This is only temporary, and it shall pass.
If you believe that you or a loved one presents immediate danger to themselves or others, please call 9-1-1 or your local crisis hotline.