These are bizarre times. Yes, there have been pandemics in the past, but never with the level of technology and interconnectivity in place today. Like many, you may be working from home, but you still face an onslaught of information through the news and social media. There you sit, helplessly reading stories about coronavirus from all over the globe.
Being isolated for long stretches of time – especially for people who live alone – is emotionally challenging. And when there’s no clear end in sight, feelings of anxiety, frustration, anger and fear start to take over. Fortunately, there are things you can do to cope with the current climate of isolation. Let’s take a closer look.
Use routine to your advantage
A severe disruption in your regular routine can cause feelings of confusion, leaving you unsure about what to do next. That’s why it’s so important to maintain as much of your normal routine as possible. Try to wake up and go to bed at about the same time each day. Shower regularly, eat healthy meals, exercise, and maintain a healthy balance between productivity and rest. As much as possible, these should be the same behaviors you embraced before the pandemic hit. Maintaining control over these aspects of your life helps diminish any anxiety about the things you can’t control.
Engage when you can, how you can
Technology can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, there’s plenty of content these days to fuel your anxiety and create fear. At the same time, however, tools like video chats allow people to connect meaningfully with loved ones around the globe.
This doesn’t have to be complicated or daunting. And you don’t need a correspondence course to re-learn how to connect with your loved ones. If you’re comfortable Zoom chatting with a dozen people for virtual movie night, that’s great. If not, you can still pick up the phone and hear someone’s voice on the other end. In fact, now may be a great time to connect with individuals you haven’t talked to in awhile.
Be kind to yourself – these are uncharted waters
In the best of times, you may push yourself to the limit, simultaneously juggling a career, personal life and family responsibilities to the point of exhaustion. While that’s never a good idea, it’s even less so during these trying times.
Much of society has been temporarily shut down. It’s difficult to replicate your regular routine in these circumstances, no matter how hard you try. You’re simply not going to be as productive as you typically are, and that’s okay. Accomplish what you can, but try to be gentle with yourself.
When in doubt, get professional help.
Despite your best efforts, there may be times when feelings of anxiety, grief and fear are just too much to bear. If you’re in this situation, please reach out to a professional therapist. Our office is using video conferencing and the phone to connect with patients, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.
Here’s a final reminder: If you take prescriptions for your physical or emotional needs, keep in mind that delays are everywhere as people try to overcome the roadblocks associated with COVID-19. Don’t wait until you’re down to the last few doses before refilling your prescription. And if restrictions force you to do so, talk with your doctor or pharmacist to see if they can help.
Being forced into isolation by the threat of potential illness is overwhelming for anyone to deal with. Be patient with yourself, do what you can – and remember that you’re not alone. We’ll all get through this together.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.