Social distancing, lockdowns, empty grocery stores, increased number of cases and travel restrictions are all ingredients for a recipe for depression and anxiety. Add in the fact that you’re away from your family, your loved ones, your home country, and that would be enough to have pushed anybody further into a pit of despair the past few weeks. Not being able to go see the people that matter to you most due to travel restrictions or lockdown limitations can be extremely unnerving, especially when there isn’t a definitive end date in sight.
Being away from your family and home can make you feel alone and anxious. Most of the time, our family and home is our safe place, and during a pandemic, that’s where we’d want to gravitate to. However, the inability to go to our safe space or be surrounded by the people who make us feel secure can make us feel even more insecure, uneasy and isolated.
As human beings, we’re built to seek the presence of community. Being part of a society allows us to help each other survive, learn from each other, build strong bonds and stay connected. Being part of a community has been essential for survival, therefore social distancing feels as though we’re going against the laws of nature. It’s important to remember that you’re human, and it is completely okay to feel anxious or upset about the current circumstances. It’s normal to feel isolated during a crisis like this, especially if you’re away from your home. The most we can do now is follow social distancing guidelines, keep ourselves safe, and practice some techniques to help us combat the loneliness we feel. Here are a few tips that you could try:
1. Create a schedule or a plan. At this point, you might be feeling like you’re in a different reality and you’ve lost track of time. Now, more than ever, is the time to create a schedule or a plan for the next few weeks filled with tasks you want to complete. It’s important to have some structure and routine during a time of chaos and uncertainty. Following a schedule can help relieve some anxiety and remind you that you still have goals, even though you are not with loved ones right now.
2. Keep in touch with your loved ones. Social distancing can make us feel extremely lonely. In fact, studies have shown that people who feel lonely are more likely to develop symptoms of physical illness. Thus, one of the most effective things you can do to combat loneliness is to keep in touch with the people who are important to you. Frequently calling the people you’re unable to visit can do wonders for your loneliness, anxiety and depression. Since you may not be able to see them in person, technology can be our best friend during this pandemic. Setting up “virtual date nights” with the people you love over video chat can really help you stay connected in a physically disconnected world.
3. Use mental health apps and services. If you’re feeling particularly anxious, there are multiple apps and services you could try to help calm your nerves. Mindfulness apps like Calm, Headspace and Aura provide ambient sounds, guided meditations and exercises to help relieve anxiety and stress. If you feel like you need a little more navigation, online therapy is also an option. Apps like BetterHelp offer counseling services with lower fees, or if paying for a service right now is not an option, Crisis Text Line provides you with a crisis counselor to help bring the whirlwind of emotions you’re experiencing, down to a cool calm with no fees attached. Even though you may not have your usual support system near you, you have plenty of helpful and professional online services to help you through this.
4. Limit the amount of time you focus on Covid-19 news. Allocate a brief time period in the day to catch up on news about the coronavirus, and then divert your attention elsewhere. Constantly reading up on it can be informative, but can also make us spiral and feel even more anxious without our loved ones. It is possible to stay abreast of the global situation, while also ensuring we focus our attention on other aspects of life. Stepping away from the constant influx of terrifying news can not only feel like a breath of fresh air, but is necessary and healthy.
5. Crack open a window and breathe in the outside air. If you have a backyard, balcony, or porch, even better! Breathing in the air outside of your apartment/house can help your mind remove the perception of feeling “trapped” or “confined”. It can also give you a sense of hope – getting in touch with your five senses while inhaling the outside air can almost make you feel rejuvenated, and help you look forward to when social distancing is over.
6. Spend some quality time reconnecting with yourself. Try to do one thing every day or every other day that makes you genuinely happy. Activities such as coloring, drawing, writing, singing, etc., can all activate the creative part of your brain and help you release the emotions you’re feeling in a more therapeutic manner. Reading and learning new skills can also be a way to help you feel productive, and increase your self confidence. Additionally, exercising releases endorphins (the good-feeling hormones) that can help boost your mood for the day. So if you’re feeling particularly upset about being far away from home, put on a pair of sneakers and engage in some form of workout – it’ll help relieve at least some of the pain.
7. Lastly, have faith that you won’t have to be distanced from home forever. This will end. It’s completely okay to grieve the situation, feel lost and anxious, and have days where you just want to lie in bed and zone out. At the same time, remember that life is constantly changing – it’s fluid. Nothing lasts forever and everything is temporary. You will be home and you will see the people you love again soon. Like a terrible thunderstorm, this too shall pass. Until then, dance in the rain.