Tips to start coming back from the pandemic's isolation - Albuquerque Journal

Tips to start coming back from the pandemic’s isolation

Wondering about the social effects of COVID-19 restrictions such as limiting gatherings, orders closing businesses, quarantines and social distancing? Feeling out of sorts when considering socializing? The social effects have been described by some as loneliness and social isolation.

Lonely is defined as being without company, cut off from others. According to the CDC, social isolation is a lack of social connections. It can lead to loneliness in some people, while others can feel lonely without being socially isolated.

Who’s lonely?

A National Institute of Health (NIH) article on loneliness and social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic describes the issue as follows:

“There is a high cost associated with the essential quarantine and social distancing interventions for COVID-19, especially in older adults, who have experienced an acute, severe sense of social isolation and loneliness with potentially serious mental and physical health consequences.”

But on the other end of the age spectrum, according to an article in The Harvard Gazette, young adults are bearing the brunt of pandemic isolation. “As psychologists worry that the coronavirus pandemic is triggering a loneliness epidemic, new Harvard research suggests feelings of social isolation are on the rise and that those hardest hit are older teens and young adults.”

Health risks

The NIH article goes on to describe the physical and mental impacts:

“Loneliness is associated with various physical and mental repercussions, including elevated systolic blood pressure and increased risk for heart disease. Both loneliness and social isolation have been associated with an increased risk for coronary artery disease-associated death, even in middle-aged adults without a prior history of myocardial infarction. Furthermore, research has shown that both loneliness and social isolation are independent risk factors for higher all-cause mortality.

Being lonely has several adverse impacts on mental health. Less sleep – reduced time in bed spent asleep and increased wake time after sleep onset have been related to loneliness. Increased symptoms of depression may also be caused by loneliness, along with poor self-rated health, impaired functional status, vision deficits and a perceived negative change in the quality of one’s life. A systematic review of suicide risk also found that loneliness is associated with both attempted and completed suicide among older adults. Loneliness, along with depressive symptoms, are related to worsening cognition over time. A systematic review concluded loneliness and social isolation were significantly associated with incident dementia.

Get re-connected

Remember when the COVID-19 restrictions were first ordered? People expressed how hard it would be to be away from co-workers, family, friends or to limit casual contact from normal activities. Humans have a need to associate with others. Social isolation effects include descriptions of social awkwardness or the need to re-learn the skills of face-to-face interactions.

In a face-to-face meeting, you cannot mute the microphone, turn off the camera, or claim a bad connection like you could with a virtual meeting. Face-to-face interactions take a different effort.

Some signs of social awkwardness:

• Feeling overly sensitive. Things that did not seem to bother you now do.

• Wanting to be around others but finding it difficult to make the commitment or feeling out of place when you do socialize.

• Forgetting the social norms you practiced previously.

• Not answering a call from a friend.

• Realizing it has been a long time since you called or texted a friend.

• Not accepting an invitation to gather (unless it’s for valid health concerns).

So what can we do to support one another?

• Make time to call or text a friend or family member on a regular basis. Answer the call or text from a friend or family member. Remember how good it feels to know someone is thinking about you. Your call has the same effect on them.

• Start out small. Get back together with one or two people. No need to have a large gathering.

• Think about your favorite pre-COVID activities. Decide what you feel safe doing.

• If you have been doing more things by yourself, like taking a hike, stop and talk to the person you usually pass by.

• Find a new opportunity to socialize, whether it’s a group at your local library or community center, organized around a hobby or volunteering for a cause.

• Remember, others may be feeling socially awkward. Eye contact, a smile and a kind word go a long way.

Help is available at the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, with its new easy-to-remember phone number (call or text 988) to reach trained crisis counselors who can help with suicide, mental health and substance-use-related crises.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Tips to start coming back from the pandemic’s isolation


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