I for one can’t believe it’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While we’ve certainly come a long way from navigating empty supermarket shelves, fighting over the last roll of toilet paper, stockpiling our freezers, making sure we have enough wipes and sanitizer to de-germ an army, and learning how to love (and live with) our families even more now that we were going to be with them 24/7 for an indefinite future, we are still working on how to adapt to our “online lifestyle.”
Fortunately, I’ve been working from home now for nearly ten years, so … I’m kind of an expert. ;) But the sudden shift from working in an office to having to make video calls all day long took a bit of getting used to for many. While some people may have been excited to wear pajamas 24/7, others were missing the social aspect of working alongside their co-workers. And rightly so. Humans were made for interaction. Throughout time, we have evolved into social beings. And while this trait may have originally been for survival, we still feel the need to connect and interact with others to this day. Without it, loneliness and other problems may arise.
According to Psychology Today, while feeling lonely is normal, it can cause a lot of serious mental and physical conditions such as depression, substance abuse, poor sleep and appetite, impaired immune functioning, and even suicidal thoughts. And this is why emotional connectivity remains essential. Sadly, for people who already lived alone, or previously suffered from anxiety or depression, the pandemic has been even harder.
Unfortunately, in this lockdown-era we are living in, connecting with friends and family members may not always be easy. We are working from home. Many businesses are still closed. We have fewer outlets. We may not be able to go to church, the gym, or even museums or miniature golfing. We might not feel comfortable going to see a movie, enjoying a concert, or even attending a sporting event. And, depending on what state you live in, you may not yet be able to even experience a nice meal inside of a restaurant.
So, what are we to do to keep from losing our minds in the middle of all this disarray? Being alone and only “seeing” others through Zoom calls and FaceTime is getting kind of old. And we are now witnessing how the pandemic is affecting people’s mental health as this “new normal” continues more than a year later. Don’t get me wrong: We still need to stay safe and COVID-free, but there needs to be a balance.
Dr. Angela Clendenin, an instructional professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, stresses that “while people must take social distancing seriously, they also must find ways to interact with family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
If you follow guidelines and protocols, it’s probably okay to set up some time to meet with others outside. Keep your distance and wear a mask if you choose,* but schedule time to see your friends and loved ones face-to-face. Maybe meet at a park and go for a socially distanced walk together. The fresh air, combined with personal interaction, can do you a world of good. Or think about setting up a picnic with a few close friends. You could each sit on your own blanket and bring your own food. But at least you’ll get to see people in person, enjoy an al fresco feast, and most importantly – laugh. And hey, if you’re friendly with your neighbors – you could even set up some time for everyone to hang out in their own yards and enjoy some semblance of social interaction with them.
Another suggestion would be to look online and see if your community is hosting any outdoor art lessons, fitness classes, or other social events. Whatever interests you may have, more than likely you can find outside groups meeting in your local area – it just may take a little Googling to find what you’re looking for.
So, while you may not feel comfortable hugging your best friend, or playing board games with your favorite uncle yet, it’s still important to not forgo human interaction completely. It may take time and a little ingenuity, but trust me – your mental health will thank you for it! And hopefully, before we know it, we’ll be out with the new and in with the old – normal, that is.
For even more ideas on taking care of your own mental health during the pandemic, check out my other blog, “Choosing Calmness Over Chaos.”
*All views and opinions presented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the creator and do not represent those of people, institutions, or organizations that the creator may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity unless explicitly stated.