Social distancing efforts have been critical to protecting ourselves and others. But as we avoid traveling and visiting friends, and even limit trips to the grocery store, it’s easy to feel uncomfortably alone and isolated.
We still have yet to understand the full physical, mental and emotional toll that self-isolation and quarantine have taken on us. If you're feeling out of sorts or anxious, you're not alone. Know that whatever you're going through, you never have to struggle on your own. There is a support system here to care for you whenever you're ready to reach out.
Here are some of the ways you can process the effects of all the time spent away from others.
How You Might Feel After Quarantine
Being separated from loved ones can be difficult. According to the CDC, people who have been released from quarantine may feel:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Guilt about not being able to perform normal work or parenting duties
- Mixed emotions, including relief after quarantine
- Sadness, anger or frustration because friends or loved ones have unfounded fears of contracting the disease from you, even though you may not be contagious
- Stress from the experience of monitoring yourself or being monitored by others for symptoms of COVID-19
A recent study in the Lancet, which evaluated the results of 24 previous studies on quarantine, suggests that being in quarantine may affect your mental health months or years later. Possible long-term outcomes include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or avoidance behaviors like staying away from crowds when it’s no longer necessary.
Managing the Impact of Social Isolation
Everyone reacts differently to stress. The isolation aspect of coronavirus may be stressful, especially for children and teens, people who are at higher risk for the virus due to age or a chronic disease, people with an underlying mental health condition, health care professionals and first responders.
To help yourself and your loved ones cope, focus on what you can do now to nurture your mental health. The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend these self-care strategies, which may aid your long-term healing.
1. Know when to turn off the news. Staying informed about coronavirus updates may help you feel less stressed or nervous. Still, know your personal limits. Repeated updates and images about coronavirus can also be upsetting.
The CDC recommends taking breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories. There’s a fine balance between being informed and getting too much exposure to the news. Similarly, the WHO advises: “Avoid social media that makes you feel panicked.”
The CDC also suggests talking with your child or teen about what's going on in a way they can understand and taking time to answer their questions.
2. Do something fun. Tackle a project or task you haven’t had the time to do before, like trying a new recipe, starting a garden or cleaning out a cluttered closet.
If you’re in quarantine or self-isolation, find some movies you’ve been meaning to watch or catch up on a good book. Focus on what you can do — instead of what you can’t — and try to maintain a routine as much as possible.
3. Seek out a support system. Even though you might not be able to meet up with friends and family in person, make an effort to connect through video or phone calls and texts. Share your concerns and how you’re feeling with a friend or family member.
You can also encourage your children to maintain their social connections. The CDC recommends helping them set up video chats with their friends.
4. Feed yourself and your family well. Is your pantry a constant temptation? Even though you’re home more than usual, make an effort to meal plan as much as you can and eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
5. Exercise your options. Staying home may help slow the spread of coronavirus, but the CDC still recommends getting exercise. If you maintain a safe social distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and others, you can walk in your neighborhood or go for a bike ride. Online videos offer a wide array of classes you can take right in your living room.
6. Take personal time-outs. If you’re a parent juggling younger children at home, homeschooling and working from home, this can be an especially challenging time. The WHO suggests finding time for yourself after your children have gone to sleep. Maybe it’s exercising, watching a favorite show, crafting, calling a friend or working on a home project. Carve out time at the end of the day for these much-deserved me-time activities.
7. Take stock of your life skills. What have you done to face challenges before? To cope with stress, the WHO recommends drawing on the skills you’ve used in the past to manage your emotions during this time.
8. Try to focus on the positive. While you’re social distancing, in quarantine or self-isolation, consider keeping a journal. Write down what you’re grateful for or things that are going well, such as more time spent with your family, taking long walks with your dog or remaining free of COVID-19 symptoms.
9. Reclaim your physical health. Perhaps you've held off on getting a consultation for a health concern or talking to your doctor about changing medications. Maybe you have been struggling with weight loss or the management of a chronic condition. Use this time to consider your short- and long-term health goals, and find a provider who can help you achieve them.
10. Monitor your mental health. How are you handling this change of pace, including the socially isolating aspect of it? It may be hard to tell.
The CDC suggests being on the lookout for these common signs of distress:
- Anger or short temper
- Changes in appetite, energy and activity levels
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares, and upsetting thoughts and images
- Feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety or fear
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
If you experience these feelings or behaviors for several days in a row and you can’t carry out normal responsibilities because of them, seek professional help. Call your physician or make an appointment for a video visit using the secure AdventHealth app on a computer or mobile device.
A phone call or video visit can provide your doctor with the details needed to make an informed medical decision about the care you need. Simply download the AdventHealth app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store onto your smartphone or tablet.
If you have a preexisting mental health condition, continue with your treatment plan and monitor yourself for any new symptoms. Schedule a call or video visit with your doctor if new symptoms develop or you feel you are struggling.
You’re Not Alone
You may be away from others when you’re social distancing or in quarantine, but you’re far from alone. Supportive, whole-person care is here for you when you're ready, and we encourage you to reach out. For more information about staying healthy and safe, visit our website.