Protecting Mental Health During Social Distancing

People by nature are social creatures. The average person has 12 social interactions per day*. Each interaction creates a risk for spreading COVID-19.  Although social distancing is effective at reducing the spread of the virus, the unintended consequences can result in social isolation accompanied by intense feelings of anxiety, fear, loneliness, and depression — especially for those who reside alone within their residence. Maintaining mental health during these uncertain times is crucial for overall health and well-being. Here are some activities that can reduce worry, anxiety and depression:

1- Limit the amount of pandemic related news and social media that you watch/read. While it is important to stay up-to-date with what is happening, the news will still be there after you take a brain break.

2- Talk to someone about how you are feeling. You would be surprised how many people may be feeling the same way but are too embarrassed to admit it.

3- Stay connected with loved ones, friends or co-workers has been suggested by many mental health experts. In today’s age of technology, it is easier than ever to stay physically distanced but socially connected via phone, text, or video chatting. This is also a good time to look up old friends that you have not talked to for sometime. While chatting through technology may not be a perfect substitute for face-to-face interaction, it keeps you connected, contributes to happiness, combats loneliness, and gives you and others a sense of belonging. It can even help to pass time.

4- Be kind. Being socially distant from others does not mean that you cannot practice acts of kindness. Checking in on others and being a source of light for them contributes to a person’s sense of purpose and belonging.

5– Enjoy a new book or TV series.

6- Seek warmth. Whether having hot coffee or taking a shower, psychology has taught us that warmth can mimic the sensation of physical touch. Such comfort can provide ease in times of isolation and loneliness.

7- Be active! Exercise contributes to overall physical and mental health, well-being and life quality. Being active can make you feel happier, increase energy levels, reduce risk of chronic diseases, boost brain health and memory, help regulate sleep and relaxation, and can even add years to your life. Going for a walk will not only provide you with fresh air but the sun is also good for your mind and body, and can provide some comforting warmth as well.

8- Maintain a schedule with regular sleep and wake times.

9– Don’t be hard on yourself – this is not a time to expect increased amounts of productivity – we are worried and grieving and adjusting – and that takes a lot of emotional energy.

10- Finally, remember that if you are a bit down during the COVID-19 pandemic, it does not mean anything is “wrong” with you.  You are doing a vital service with your part in reducing the spread of disease in your community. If you are feeling like you need support call SAMHSA’s free 24-hour Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. They can provide counseling services, information on how to recognize distress, and tips for healthy coping. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours every day at 1-800-273-8255.

Excerpt from article by former UK Pasture Evaluation intern Sydney Biedleman, now on the UK Agriculture Safety Coordination Team.