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10 Tips for Connecting With Others (and Yourself) During COVID-19-Induced Isolation

My inbox is filled with notices of new policies and cancellations due to COVID-19, the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system. Even if I have only a mild concern for my own health related to the coronavirus, the constant bombardment of information (and misinformation) is enough to induce a state of panic. 

For those of us who live with some level of disordered anxiety or hypochondriac-tendencies, this is a very heightened and challenging time. This state of constant hypervigilance means the adrenal stress response is working overtime and at risk of fatigue.

Simultaneously, some of us are also breathing a sigh of relief with the social distancing and quarantine restrictions in most major U.S. cities — we’ve just received a de facto “free pass” to avoid any event, gathering or person we want with zero guilt. And we get to work from home? Bonus!

As my traditionally busy springtime calendar looks more and more like the empty shelves of the toilet paper aisle at Costco, I’m cautioned against celebrating the canceled events too much. While I cherish my solitude, I also need human connection to thrive. We all do.

That’s why I created NoStigmas, a place for people with mental health and suicide-related experiences to connect. Even if it isn’t always comfortable, spending time with people who “get it” is an important aspect of recovery on the mental health journey.

In line with the CDC recommendations, we’ve enacted a work from home policy and all in-person events have been postponed until after restrictions have been lifted. Unfortunately, this means that many of us may not be receiving the much-needed peer support that helps us get through the day.

That’s why it’s all the more important to remain diligent about the state of our mental health and that of our peers. Here are 10 ideas on ways to connect with one another and find support through this challenging time:

  1. Talk with family and friends on the phone or through video. Seeing and hearing those we care about can help mitigate the effects of isolation.
  2. Plan fun quarantine games and activities like you would for rainy/snowy days. This could include traditional board games and puzzles or more involved scavenger hunts and multi-part storytelling events. Not only does this help distract from anxiety, but can help disrupt negative thought patterns.
  3. Learn new ways to support yourself and others with NoStigmas Ally Training free online course.
  4. Connect with people who get it through our Ally Group on Facebook where it’s safe to share and find support.
  5. Explore teletherapy with services like BetterHelp.com from the comfort of your own home or car or bunker.
  6. Distance yourself from negative thought patterns through meditation. (NoStigmas members receive Headspace premium at no cost for a year.)
  7. Write out your feelings in a journal or letter that you may or may not choose to send. This is also a great opportunity to explore a gratitude practice.
  8. Fuel your body with lots of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These not only help boost the immune system, but help to improve our mood as well.
  9. Fill your mind with positive conversations, information and media. It’s been proven that negativity weakens the immune system.
  10. Get outside! Even if you’re not spending time with people, you can still connect with nature and get some fresh air. Those in urban areas will likely find the streets fairly empty, making the requisite six foot social distancing advice easy enough to achieve.

While we’re creating physical distance between ourselves, we should take care to reach out to one another. Especially to those who are vulnerable or susceptible to depression or suicidal thoughts. As always, if you or someone you know is in crisis or in need of support, please reach out for support.

Text: ALLY to 741741

Call: 800-273-TALK

Above all, let’s remain non-judgmental of other people’s reactions to the coronavirus and social distancing. We don’t always know about someone’s past experiences and how current events might be triggering for them. The U.S. and many European countries are made up of people with a variety of backgrounds and cultural differences. Some have fled war, persecution and economically unstable places where resources are scarce. For those who have previously experienced food instability or homelessness, stocking up on supplies may help to reduce anxiety for them.

I’m not suggesting that this is an excuse to hoard more than one needs. But rather than assuming that people are just being selfish or uncaring, let’s exercise compassion and give people the benefit of the doubt. I believe the majority of people out there are extremely generous and would gladly help a neighbor in need. Let’s focus on the positive stories and good deeds that are also happening out there in order to promote a healthier mental health environment for all of us.

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Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash