Humans are social beings. We all need and crave social interaction, albeit on different levels. But no matter how much of an introvert you might be, everyone needs to feel connected to others and have regular social contact. The pandemic has created challenges for most of us in this area, yet being socially distanced doesn’t have to mean being socially isolated. Even if you normally live alone and have limited social contact, either through choice or situation, it’s important to reach out from time to time. Research has shown that social isolation can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. Keep reading to learn about the ways you can stay connected and cope with social isolation even during the most challenging of times.
Create a Virtual Social Contact Schedule
Physical distance can create barriers to communication and physical closeness, but that doesn’t necessarily have to equate with a lack of connection. The pandemic has caused many of us to change our schedules, which likely used to involve a certain amount of social contact on a regular basis. People typically like to have routines where they know exactly what’s expected of them throughout the course of the day, and this also provides health benefits like reduced stress and improved sleep. Creating a schedule with friends or family where you have regular contact via virtual mediums like Skype or FaceTime can help you kill two birds with one stone. Not only will you have a scheduled time where you can look forward to connecting, but you’ll also be able to plan the rest of your day accordingly, which may help you achieve an improved sense of normalcy and stability.
Practice Mindful Acceptance
Trying to change things we cannot change is one of the most frustrating and futile activities we all do at times, but you’ve probably realized that trying to fight the flow often only results in increased stress, tension, and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness can be a beneficial way to connect with yourself and your feelings, and may help you accept the way things are in your life right now. This might mean accepting that your social situation isn’t exactly the way you might like it to be. The important thing to remember is that “what you resist, persists.” Try to take a few moments (or more) out of your day to just sit quietly, breathe, and watch your thoughts without attaching any importance to them at all as they flow in and out of your mind.
Focus on the Opportunities
During the hustle and bustle of pre-pandemic day-to-day life, you might have been too busy to be able to do the things you really wanted to do. Think about goals you’d like to accomplish, hobbies you want to cultivate, positive changes you want to make, or skills you’d like to learn. It can help to change your viewpoint from one of feeling socially isolated to one of having increased time alone to invest in yourself.
Take Time Out for Self-Care
Social isolation can be stressful, but research has found that it can also lead to brain and hormonal changes that can have a profound impact on your overall health. Taking time out for yourself by cultivating a self-care practice may help counter the negative effects of social isolation on your mental and physical health. Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean getting a massage or taking a long hot bath (although it can if that’s what you need). It can also mean taking time for essential practices like getting enough exercise, eating a healthy diet, and ensuring that you have ample amounts of restful sleep. Download the WellRx Mobile App for some helpful tips and tools that can help you make healthier nutritional choices that align with your wellness goals.
Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
This is good advice in general, but it applies especially to times when you’re experiencing increased feelings of social isolation. With the pandemic, we’ve all been more likely to rely on social media as a form of communication, but remember that people only tend to share the best aspects of their lives online. You may not see or hear about how lonely others might be feeling, and we can never really be sure of what feelings and situations others are dealing with when we see their lives through the lens of social media. Avoid making comparisons because this could only make you feel lonelier. Be selective when sharing your deepest feelings and seek out contact with people with whom you feel safe and truly connected.
Spend Time in Nature
Connecting to the natural world can be a helpful way of maintaining a healthy perspective. Take a walk in a natural setting and spend more time outdoors. Take a walk on the beach or in a park, or just go for a walk around the block after dinner. Being active in nature is beneficial not only for your physical health. It can also provide mental health benefits like decreased anger, improved mood, reduced stress, and increased relaxation.
Life is fluid, and everything is in a state of constant flux. Keep a healthy perspective and remember that the situation won’t last forever, even if it seems like it at the time. Taking charge of your situation and making changes that are under your influence can help you feel better, so seek out positive interactions and engage in activities that make you feel good.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW, is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, and substance abuse specialist. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she continued her studies at New York University, earning a Master of Social Work degree in 2002. She has extensive training in child and family therapy and in the identification and treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders. Currently, she is focusing on writing in the fields of mental health and addictions, drawing on her prior experiences as an employee assistance program counselor, individual and family therapist, and assistant director of a child and family services agency.