pandemic

Social Distancing and Mental Health

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Social distancing, the practice of avoiding large groups and close contact with others to protect the spread of disease to vulnerable groups, has become a commonly used phrase during the COVID-19 pandemic. With so much extra time spent at home, some may find themselves anxious and/or restless. While we may miss a lot from being out and about or adhering to our typical daily routines, being at home does not need to be so painfully dull.

First and foremost, electrical lighting has been shown to disrupt one’s natural rhythms, as opposed to natural light (Heid). Stepping out into the sunlight, even in the backyard, helps regulate one’s mood, energy, appetite, and sleep schedule by alerting the body it is no longer time to be groggy and asleep. In addition to meditation, spending time in greenery relaxes one’s mind and restores a sense of focus (Heid).

Additionally, distracting oneself with artistic activities or calling friends, as well as sticking to a temporary at-home routine reduces anxiety and establishes some degree of normalcy during these times (Ao). Personal connections do not need to suffer due to social distancing; checking up on friends is not a bad idea when considering they are likely just as restless as you!

Keeping up with one’s wellness and mindfulness aids immensely in making this situation at least a little bit more bearable. Taking extra measures to ensure you are getting proper amounts of sunlight, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, keeping busy, and keeping track of basic needs is crucial even when stuck at home for extended periods of time. Social distancing does not have to take away from social needs as well. Contacting friends and family members from home regularly is a healthy habit to pick up right now. And, of course, stay safe, and wash your hands!


References

Ao, Bethany. “Social Distancing Can Strain Mental Health. Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC, 23 Mar. 2020, www.inquirer.com/health/
coronavirus/coronavirus-
mental-health-social-distancing-20200319.html
.

Heid, Markham. “You Asked: Is It Bad to Be Inside All Day?” Time, 27 Apr. 2016, time.com/4306455/stress-relief-nature

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Managing Anxiety Amid a Pandemic

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

It’s only natural for people to be on edge when news of a pandemic hits. While, for many, this can call for an increase in sanitary measures and caution, focusing excessively on anything is never a good thing. Widespread media coverage can easily cause fear and stress in anyone, so it is important to maintain levelheadedness. There are many ways to combat anxiety amid an outbreak.

First, ensure you are mindful of your exposure to the news. The media tends to bring about an increased amount of fear and negativity. Stay informed on the situation, but make sure you are consuming trusted news sources without bingeing on every single news report. Too much news exposure can make the threat appear worse than it is instead of containing it (Degges-White).

When too much focus is placed on the future, our present selves suffer. Especially if you have kids, managing your own anxiety can help immensely in reducing their fears. Children can easily pick up on signs of distress. Normalizing their fears and reassuring them that you can handle the issue can help ease their fears (Moukaddam). Educating your children on hygiene, proper preventative measures, and the spread of germs is crucial during these times.

Getting news of disease outbreaks is never a pleasant experience. Issues like these are not always the most straightforward situations to handle. Controlling your media intake and reassuring yourself and your family is imperative to handling stress and anxiety. Above all else, stay calm and take care of yourself!


References

Degges-White, Suzanne. “COVID-19 Anxiety: Control Your Controllables.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 5 Mar. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/lifetime-connections/202003/covid-19-anxiety-control-your-controllables.

Moukaddam, Nidal. “Fears, Outbreaks, and Pandemics: Lessons Learned.” Psychiatric Times, 15 Nov. 2019, www.psychiatrictimes.com/anxiety/fears-outbreaks-and-pandemics-lessons-learned.

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