Monday, March 16, 2020

Dealing With Social Isolation

Social isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak is going to be harder for some than for others. Because of my health problems I've become somewhat used to social isolation, but it was very difficult for me at first. I don't know if I can help others deal with it, but these are some of my ideas.

If you are religious, pray and meditate, if you aren't, just meditate. Studies have shown the effectiveness of both in reducing stress and increasing well-being, among other things.

Keep yourself socially connected virtually, but be very careful to avoid the toxic areas of the internet. Early on when I had to start staying home instead of going out, I spent a lot of time on IRC and Usenet. These are largely supplanted by modern social networking and forums, which can be both good and bad, just like IRC and Usenet was (and is). Find forums for your interests and avoid the comment sections of YouTube and most online articles. Definitely avoid news sites that are sensationalizing current events.

Focus on the things you can still do, but don't try to do them all at once. Set a schedule, making sure to include both chores and things you enjoy, and pace it out. In the beginning of my social isolation I made the mistake of engaging in marathon reading sessions over days or weeks and that left me feeling empty, more isolated, and frustrated. It was only when I learned to limit my reading sessions to a few hours at most, and make time for other things—especially the important things like daily chores—that I started to feel more balanced. I also found people online that I could talk to about what I had been reading.

Distraction can be a useful tool if you are experiencing anxiety about the current situation, but it won't eliminate the anxiety, especially if distraction becomes avoidance. It is better to find a way to keep updated without being overwhelmed, and don't excessively research! There is such a thing as excessive vigilance, and it will feed anxiety like nothing else. And remember what I said about avoiding sensationalized news.

Try to find ways to help others who might also be struggling with isolation. Maybe you can set up a conference Skype call among friends. Maybe you can donate a 1-month subscription to a streaming site to someone who can't afford it. Or donate money directly to non-profit organizations that may be impacted. For example, homeless shelters aren't prepared for this situation. Is there a way you can help them? Leave a comment below with your ideas.

Make sure you're getting enough sleep, and enough water. Don't excessively exercise or neglect your exercise routine.

Try to be extra patient with each other. Those slightly annoying little habits of others can become major irritants due to extended close proximity, if you let them. Be forgiving. Be apologetic. Be kind.

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