Coping in Isolation

Fefe Hargrow

Social distancing and isolation have now become the new norms of our daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the world has forced people into their homes, away from friends, family, and life as we know it. Fear of sickness and loss coupled with feelings of being alone are the perfect climate for a mental illness storm that could be soon coming our way. 

The United States could very well see a sharp increase of new clinical depression cases and for those who already suffer from a mental illness this time is especially challenging. Figuring out how to cope in isolation and where to turn for help when the healthcare system is already overburdened will be the key to avoiding a mental health crisis.

The virus identified as Covid-19 has placed a tremendous strain on people across the United Sates. In this uncertain time, it may feel like we are helpless but that isn’t true. An article published Erin Leyba, LCSW, Ph.D., in Psychology Today mentions Behavioral Activation which is a component of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as a proven method to prevent depression. Behavioral Activation lays out all the basics like exercises, taking warm baths, helping others and reading but the main point of this method is to force yourself to remain in motion. Acknowledging that there is resistance both mentally and physically and pushing through that is what minimizes depression.  The activation process recommends making the split decision to do the activity or action even when you truly don’t want too and noticing how great you feel after.

Another technique to dealing with depression is to continue your daily routine, with some exceptions. Clinical psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD, who works out of Cleveland Clinic created a list of “Cures for COVID-19 Cabin Fever”. He recommends following your normal sleep schedule, wake up and go to bed at your normal times. This prevents feeling sluggish and keeps your body in a regular pattern.  Dr. Bea states that loneliness and isolation can lead to a host of illnesses including depression, heart disease and even dementia. Staying in touch can help remedy these feelings but keeping us connected to those we hold dear. Video calling apps like Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp, and Houseparty strive to make social distancing not feel so distanced. 

While some coping mechanisms take a more physical approach meditation is catered to the mind. Meditation and mindfulness practices have been used for decluttering the mind, finding peace, and bringing more awareness to one’s self, body, and needs. Finding a nook or quiet space to nestle into and starting a meditation routine can help to alleviate depression, insomnia, and stress. Diana Winston, the director of mindfulness education at UCLA’S mindfulness research center set up a full guideline in an article for the Los Angeles Times for beginning your wellness through mindfulness journey. She suggests using the S.T.O.P acronym, which stands for stop, take a breath, observe, proceed, during the process to further aid in the practice. During this time apps are offering free meditation services for coronavirus relief. The apps where you can find tools to help through this process are Ten Percent Happier, Calm, Oak, Headspace, and the UCLA Mindful App run by Diana Winston herself.

Mental illnesses and depression are common in the United States, as both affect millions of American every year. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that 19.1% or 47.6 million Americans suffer from mental illness. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 13-34. With such staggering statistics and our current battle against COVID-19 it is safe to say that mental health awareness deserves the spotlight. Across the country people have gone into quarantine, some with family or spouses, while others must go it alone. If you or someone you are struggling to cope during this time, please reach out to call 1-800-985-5990.

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