Social distancing & self-isolation under ongoing COVID-19
Updated: Oct 17, 2020
Although social distancing is a key to reducing the risk of infecting others, it is important that we remain mindful about its potential psychological impact - especially to those who are generally more vulnerable in difficult times like now.
Social-isolation at home or in a dedicated facility is often an unpleasant experience. The negative psychological impact has been shown to include anger, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress symptoms (Brooks et al., 2020).
Some of the most commonly experienced emotions during challenging times like this include:
Fear of being infected or infecting others;
Loneliness under self-isolation;
Anxiety over inadequate information;
Fear of financial loss;
Stress of looking after others, including young children off school;
Pain of stigmatisation or rejection from people experiencing stress;
Boredom of having to stay home;
As social animals, we human beings are hardwired to seek social contact, we behave empathically, and seek for empathic behaviour. It is therefore entirely natural for us to feel vulnerable under the impact of social-isolation.
Additionally, it is important to recognize that some of us may feel more confident at handling loneliness while others may be more prone to developing symptoms of anxiety and depression of clinical severity, or subclinical, or other mental health issues.
Looking after oneself is important but certainly not easy. Many of us have responsibilities in looking after others too, most commonly young children and elderly individuals. Although rewarding, this can also be an extra stressor.
What could help us reduce the risk of experiencing these problems?
Previous studies have shown the importance of the following:
Share information... The fear of being infected or infecting others is common and may be exacerbated by inadequate information. Adequate knowledge of infectious disease and the reasons for quarantine is essential. We are better able to tolerate stressors when those stressors are better understood.
Improve communication with your family, friends, and other support systems... Because social-isolation will cause distress, it is important that we remain in contact with our family and friends as well as our mental health professionals via effective modes of communication (e.g. phone, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat)
Altruism, empathy, and prosociality... Feeling and knowing that others would benefit from our effort to keep social-distance and care for those who may be more susceptible to developing mental health issues could make difficult situations like this easier to live through. Let us all rediscover the power of empathy and prosociality and reach out to those who could use even just a tiny share of care from us.
Importantly also, do not feel guilty or ashamed about seeking help. If you wish to be mindful about meeting mental health professionals in-person, many of those people now offer online counseling and psychological assessment sessions.
If you think you could use help from a dedicated mental health professionals, please feel free to reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org
A team of multi-lingual mental health professionals I team up with or myself would be happy to extend our assistance.