How to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic without feeling depressed
The coronavirus pandemic is forcing people to self-isolate to prevent the virus from spreading. Going into a period of social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine may feel daunting or overwhelming, and can contribute to feelings of helplessness and fear.
These situations have compromised our mental and emotional wellbeing. By nature, we are social creatures and are wired for connections. There is a feeling of belonging when we are with our loved ones.
Evidence suggests that women find social interaction rewarding and can connect easily, through various engagements. As British psychologist John Bowlby says, women have a natural maternal instinct, which provides a healthy relationship to the family unit. For women to continue providing warmth, comfort and care, they require a good support system, which in turn empowers them to build connections in a social setting.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, people around the world are experiencing high stress levels, due to fear and uncertainty. Also, it’s evident that mental health and emotional wellbeing has been impacted and increased drastically.
Studies have shown that women have a prevalence of a major depressive disorder almost twice than that of men. There are many factors that contribute to women experiencing high depressive symptoms, such as over-representation in low-paying jobs, lack of education, socio economic factors and physical health.
Additionally, it’s been proven that social connection is a very big factor for our mental and emotional wellbeing. These are exceptional times, but we are a resilient society with the strength and capacity to cope with difficult situations. These are some positive and proactive steps we can take to thrive and flourish in these challenging times as individuals and as a part of the larger community.
- An opportunity to connect with ourselves and our core values. Love brings people together; generating love and kindness.
- Increase self-care, ensuring sufficient rest and respite during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food, engage in physical activity, and stay in contact virtually with family and friends. You could share meals virtually with your loved ones.
- Find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories and positive images of local people who have experienced COVID-19. For example, stories of people who have recovered or who have supported a loved one and are willing to share their experience.
- Look for the good in the present situation, for example, if your are working from home, may be you are enjoying more autonomy now.
- Encourage your creativity to flow with different ways to interact. Maybe you can capture the moments that you might have shared with your family/ friends, some priceless ones with children or grandparents. Relive the moments and try to extend the happy feelings that have been created.
- Build a gratitude tree, being grateful for the day, where members can post things grateful for. Create positive energy that can be channelised for wellness around the world.
- Find a buddy, or group of people, to set daily challenges with. These could include a healthy habit, a mindful practice, or a creative pursuit. Be sure to encourage and check in daily to stay motivated.
- Be generous and kind to others. This helps enhance your wellbeing too. Look out for people who might be alone or elderly people. You might be the person who has brought a smile to their day.
- Stay connected with your values. Don’t let fear or anxiety drive your interactions with others. Fear tears us apart.
- Limit your exposure to news and media. Choose specific times of the day to get updates, and ensure they are from reputable and reliable sources.
- Acknowledge difficult thoughts and feelings, which are valid, but remember they do not define you.
- Please do not dismiss any difficulties or challenges that you might be experiencing, which might be unique to you and seek professional guidance from mental health professionals. Remember, people don’t know what you are going through, unless you tell them. It's okay to ask for help.
And, most importantly, be kind and gentle to yourself and appreciate your strength.
Social distancing is an important response to the pandemic, but we need to ensure that it does not become social isolation or alienation, particularly for the vulnerable groups of our society. When things get overwhelming, pause, take a deep breath and reassure yourself that we are all in it together and it’s okay, this time shall also pass.
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan