Social distancing has become the ‘new normal’ as we live through the Covid-19 pandemic, and we’re having to become used to staying home and not seeing our family and friends face to face. But not being able to enjoy daily social contact – not even to pop to the local café or enjoy a fitness class at the gym – can take its toll on your mental health.
How social distancing affects you
The rational part of you may totally understand the need to keep two metres apart at all times, to prevent passing on the virus, and for the sake of everyone’s health. But a more emotional or vulnerable part of you may feel quite hurt when a person crosses the road to avoid coming near you – and even avoids eye contact with you. The casual interactions of the pre-coronavirus days – chats in the supermarket queue, a cup of tea with a neighbour, lunch out with friends – have all stopped suddenly. If the social side of life is important to you, then your emotional wellbeing and mental health could be affected by having to stay in lockdown.
As therapists we are still aiming to offer psychological support during these challenging times, but through phone or online video calls. We are noticing the following kinds of impact on mental health due to the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing:
Many people are reporting that their anxiety is through the roof, what with juggling the everyday needs of family life, making sure there is enough food in the fridge to feed everyone, and worrying about the devastating effects the virus can have. Watching news can fuel this anxiety, as can flicking through negative stories on social media. Not having control over what will happen can also be anxiety-provoking. To understand more on what anxiety is and how to help manage it, you can check out our video animation on anxiety.
Many people may be experiencing a low mood right now, as the reality of what’s happening in the world starts to hit home. One of the best ways to help depression is to look outwardly and find a purpose that inspires you. Having to be in lockdown, and socially distance yourself from loved ones, may mean that you find yourself turning inwards again and feeling despair and hopelessness. If you find yourself heading that way, be sure to speak to someone. Our video animation on depression may help you with a starting point to boost your mood.
Loneliness and Abandonment
Not everyone has people around to support them. Being completely on your own may be a struggle for you, especially if touch and close interactions are what bring joy to your life. It may feel like a massive adjustment to have to live an introverted life for now. When you’re going for your daily walk and people avoid being near you, this may also be triggering of an old wound. You may have experienced other forms of loss or abandonment in your life, and old feelings of shame or guilt or sadness may be resurfacing. It may help to know that this will be temporary and normal life will resume at some point – and do reach out to friends, online groups, or therapeutic support if things become too much.
Some tips to help you manage social distancing
Accept that you’re going to have a mixed range of emotions. Some of them may arrive from out of the blue and be completely ‘unlike you’. Trust that these emotions won’t last forever. They will come and go. You may be having a down day. You may be having an anxious day. It’s OK not to feel OK. These are challenging times.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you feel there are days when you’re struggling. These are unsettling, unprecedented times, and you don’t have an inbuilt Sat Nav that shows you how to navigate this unfamiliar landscape. You may need to just take one day at a time.
Try not to take it personally when someone crosses the road to avoid you. This is a collective need, not a personal slight. You may decide to be the one who does the moving out the way, so you feel more of a sense of agency in your distancing interactions with other people.
Stay connected with friends and loved ones, where possible. Phone calls, video conferencing apps and social media are just some of the ways you can keep in touch. Virtual contact is not the same, but you can at least tell people you’re thinking of them. However, do remember to stay away from negativity (in terms of social media posts) as this may not help your mood or your anxiety levels.
Make your life as meaningful as you can. The structures of everyday life as we knew it have been taken away, so it’s important to create new structures – whether that’s ensuring you exercise, chat to friends, cook, study, learn something new, play, or catch up on the box sets you promised yourself you’d always watch. This lockdown period may be a time for self-reflection and a chance to consider what is really important to you.
If you’re concerned about your mental health and struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus lockdown measures, then know that you don’t have to be on your own with your feelings. Reach out to speak to a professional who can help. All of our therapy sessions have moved to online video or phone sessions, and we have therapists available seven days a week. Call 020 8673 4545 to talk through your needs with our friendly reception team. You can also email us on [email protected]