The Impact of Social Distancing on Mental Health


The Impact of Social Distancing on Mental Health

By Summer Wadleigh

Within this transition from April to May, social distancing remains a key aspect of maintaining the safety of both ourselves and the people we care about. Though what can sometimes be easily overlooked is the fact that there many more aspects to social distancing apart from simply staying inside. Social distancing, while safe and effective, can negatively impact our relationship with our approach to the outside world. Feelings of isolation and disconsolateness are growing increasingly common as the lengths taken to protect those from COVID-19 becomes a matter of long-term disconnect to the social interactions that were once routine. This article will discuss the true extent of the effect that social distancing has taken on the population, and what you as an individual can do to bring a sense of hopefulness into your life at home.

Photo Credit: Julia M. Cameron

First, one of the most commonly experienced yet various results of social distancing is increased levels of anxiety. With a plethora of causes each falling under COVID-19, this is something that can be experienced by anyone. Outside of simply one’s own health status, this anxiety can resonate through related matters such as job security, in wondering how your family is going to remain financially stable throughout the quarantine, or academics, both college and high school seniors wondering if all the time that they’ve committed to their education is going to be undermined by COVID-19, to which they’ll be unable to walk across the stage. Outside of solely the elderly and those with autoimmune disorders, every type of person is experiencing fear or panic placed onto them by the current health climate and being limited to staying at home; it only allows more time for these worries to expand.

Similarly, another likely result of social distancing on mental health is feelings of depression or hopelessness. As quarantine restrains people from carrying out their day to day activities, the newfound lack of productivity can induce some harmful effects. This elongated boredom due to extended periods staying indoors can negatively impact the sense of purpose or meaning typically associated with everyday interaction. Changes typically derived from increased feelings of sadness could include difficulty sleeping or concentrating, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, and increased substance use of drugs or alcohol. Depression, especially for those with pre-existing mental health problems, is easy to succumb to without the normalcy of things such as going to school or work or spending necessary time with loved ones.

Despite the seemingly harsh realities of staying home, there are always options available to make the most of these current circumstances:

Online connection– Making time to virtually stay in touch with friends and distant family can immensely decrease feelings of isolation while at home. Maintaining these relationships during this time can provide the sense of routine that many are searching for amidst the extra time in solitude.

Take interest in a new hobby– During this health crisis, taking part in a calming hobby such as painting, journaling, or reading can allow for some momentary peace amidst this mass fear. Especially with an overwhelming amount of intense media coverage surrounding the dangers created by COVID-19, a relaxing past time can do some good in easing one’s mind and acting as a source of comfort throughout this time inside.

Practice self-care– Aside from the pre-existing importance of self-care, quarantining for an extended period only increases this importance. This can range from anything as simple as making sure to stretch throughout the day to getting regular exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood (wearing the appropriate protective gear). Physical health and mental health often coincide and making a point to stay healthy will help one in not feeling such a strong lack of routine.

In brief, social distancing makes it easy to fall into unhealthy habits as a result of such a large change. Though acknowledging that these circumstances are only temporary and putting the time to more productive uses will help in making the most out of a seemingly hopeless situation. In adding my own personal message, I want to stress the importance of staying inside unless it is absolutely necessary. Stay considerate of the people around you, and keep in mind that others may not be as immune as you are. I hope everybody is taking precautions and staying safe!