In December, I wrote a blog post on loneliness during the holiday season. Now, I find myself drawing on that post in order to explore the mental health effects of social distancing and social isolation. With all of the venues where we typically congregate closed for the foreseeable future, it can be incredibly hard to not feel cut off.
David Kessler, author of On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss, classifies what what we are experiencing as “anticipatory grief”, or the feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. This emotion is experienced both individually and on a collective level.
We imagine the worst-case scenarios, and become trapped in an anxiety loop. In order to come out of that headspace, we need to bring ourselves into the present and accept that we cannot control the circumstances, beyond the personal choices we make to stay healthy and avoid spreading germs to others.
What can we do about managing this grief? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommends staying connected to loved ones via apps like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime, as well as using practical activities such as stretching and exercise to calm your mind. Have a hobby or a goal you’ve been wanting to invest in? Now’s the time!
I’ve recently bought myself a hot pink ukulele and am throwing myself into remote dance fitness classes with a passion, though in a small New York apartment, injuries from hitting the wall are not uncommon. If all of that fails, a solitary, socially-distanced walk in the sunshine is a great mode of meditation. As we move through the new reality, all we can do is take it day by day, and remember that we’re all in this together.
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