“All of humanity’s problems stem from the man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal
It’s been five months since most of us have lived our lives secluded in our homes. What once was an amazing reminder of slowing down & “focusing on what really matters,” has now begun to feel oppressive. Without our daily ability to distract with outings or plan for a brighter future – most of us are cracking under the pressure of social isolation.
Humans are social creatures & we don’t do well in isolation. When I work with an adolescent or young adult struggling with anxiety &/or depression, we often discover that deep down there is a sense of loneliness. Social confinement is a punitive tool in State penitentiaries – it makes sense why this emotion can feel so heavy.
I often quiz my clients…what is the difference between loneliness & solitude? We eventually get to… Autonomy. The ability to choose solitude instead of coping with loneliness. Right now, we are totally out of control in this process & have little choice in the matter. This is a difficult reality to accept. But accept we must.
Since it is uncertain how long this will go, I recommend we do our best to stay mentally fit in our current conditions. Because we do have at least some autonomy over ourselves & our wellbeing. With this in mind, here are some tips for coping with social isolation.
Take phone breaks (this one’s a staple) – The world is suffering big right now. When we read about this suffering, it becomes addicting. We think we need to be informed, but what are we doing with all that information? I hope that by stepping away from your gadget you can critically think…that is the difference from consuming versus absorbing. Let the reality of this moment sink in so that instead of numbing out, you permit yourself to feel.
Indulge your creative side – I’ve been hearing the word “boredom” a lot from my younger clients. While that may appear benign, boredom without autonomy can take depression-in-remission & yank it back into the abyss. While I encourage my clients to embrace the sensation of boredom, I never want them to be needlessly suffering. So, it’s important to try to get creative with your time. I could give you my list of creative ideas but it’s better to come up with your own. Anytime you are putting your energy, time & influence into a project just for the sheer process of creating, you are tapping back into a sacred space. And this Universe could use more people creating solutions with art than reading someone else’s ideas on the matter.
Reconnect – Instead of texting or emailing your people, I encourage you to sit down & practice the art of conversation. Share how you are doing. This is such an interesting time & most of us are experiencing life more intensely than ever before. We need each other very much. Show up for your community in a way that will truly bring value to everyone involved.
Stay active – I was working out the other day & feeling pretty miserable. I asked myself, “why do I do this?” And it’s not for the feeling during but for the feeling after. The buzz of constant anxiety comes partially from not moving our bodies as much as we usually do. It is important to stay physically active during this time to help metabolize restless energy. Our summer is finally here & we have been waiting long, dark, wet, cold months for this, so get outside & roam around.
Meditate (or just sit & ponder) – Anxious, stressed, angry, or depressed? Then one must meditate. Meditation actually grows brain matter. Who doesn’t want more brain? It also activates the pre-frontal cortex, the part of our brain that gets us back to being special human beings. We need to settle our minds, so that we can feel again. We need to feel, so we can heal. Do not only yourself a favor but your fellow brothers & sisters benefit too – settle to feel, feel to heal.
I do my best to do all of these things…and…I see my counselor weekly via Telehealth. If you notice, that none of these tricks are pulling you out of a funk, that’s when it’s time to ask for help. Stay safe & be well out there!