The Psychological Impact of Social Isolation and Tips on How to Make This Easier
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are practicing social distancing and quarantining at home to protect themselves and others from the virulent virus. For those living alone, this can mean spending a lengthy amount of time being alone in their apartments or houses.
This can degrade one’s mental health, and it may even lead to increased social isolation and increased risks of serious mental health disorders. In this article, we will talk about the psychological impact of social isolation and some tips on how to make these trying and uncertain times much easier to handle.
What is Social Isolation?
Social Isolation is a state of complete or close to complete lack of interaction or contact from the outside world over a long period. This is quite different from the feeling of loneliness which is a temporary and most often involuntary lack of contact from other members of society.
Humans are inherently social animals. We have evolved to thrive and feel good when around people we trust and socially interact with them. With quarantines taking place all over the world, many people are experiencing less “real” social interaction aside from social media on the internet. However, the lower-income groups of people may not have access to the internet and social media to communicate with their family and friends.
What are the Negative Impacts of Social Isolation?
The negative impacts of social isolation have been studied in a variety of different groups from astronauts in space, people sentenced to solitary confinement, to researchers in the frigid Antarctic region. Social isolation can wreak severe havoc on a person’s mental and also physical health. Some of its impacts are as follows:
1. Increased Risk of Depression
Numerous studies have found that social isolation is commonly associated with depression and other mental health disorders. Negative thoughts such as hopelessness and worthlessness can increase in magnitude while being socially isolated.
- Can Fuel Anxiety and Paranoia
Social isolation can heavily contribute to anxiety and may even trigger panic attacks, especially during these uncertain times. Without other people to console or talk to, anxious behavior can worsen over time.
- Heighten Problems with Diet
Social isolation can negatively impact an individual’s diet, whether it be overeating or the loss of one’s appetite. Sudden gain or loss of weight can be severely damaging to your physical and mental health.
- Problems with Sleep
Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much is also associated with social isolation. Irregular sleep schedules can severely impact an individual’s mental state.
- Loss of Energy
Due to having trouble with sleep, a socially isolated individual can feel tired for most of the day and lose any motivation for doing anything productive during the day. If the individual is working at home during the quarantine, this can negatively impact his or her income.
- Substance Abuse
Being in social isolation can increase one’s stress levels tremendously, and this can lead to abuse of substances such as alcohol, medications, nicotine, and even drugs.
- Negative Physical Impacts
Aside from negative mental impacts, social isolation is known to cause muscle aches, pains, and headaches. It can also worsen existing medical conditions. Studies have shown that social isolation is associated with increased risks of heart diseases, high levels of stress hormones, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
How to Combat Social Isolation
Being socially isolated for a lengthy amount of time can lead to deadly situations, as seen above. However, social isolation can be combatted and prevented. Here some of the ways you can stay mentally and physically healthy while in social isolation during the quarantine:
- Keep Active and Exercise
Exercising is one of the best ways to combat the feelings of social isolation. Numerous studies worldwide have found that exercising can help reduce stress levels by a large margin. It helps boosts endorphin production, the feel-good chemicals of our brain and reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. You can safely do workout routines indoors without having to go to the gym.
- Continue Neglected Projects
Maybe you have projects in the past that you’ve put aside. You can use the plentiful time you have at home to continue and maybe even finish them. Keeping yourself busy can help ward off the symptoms of depression due to social isolation.
- Try relaxation techniques, mindfulness and prayers
Relaxation can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. A study in 2019 found that college students who used mobile apps for relaxation such as call to prayer mindfulness for 10 minutes a day experienced being less depressed and anxious. Prayers which is seen as a form of relaxation also helps reduce blood pressure and lower your heart rate.
- Clean the House
Maybe it has been a while since your house or apartment had a thorough cleaning. That said, you want to take an hour or two to clean your entire house and get rid of unessential things you may have lying around. You might even find an item you’ve been looking for or discover something nostalgic from the past.
- Learn about your faith or a New Hobby or a Language
Now that we have ample time for ourselves, it is one of the best times to reflect, read the Quran and pray or learn a new hobby or a language. You can currently find plenty of apps or have Zoom get together. My children are currently engaged in Studying activities (including Islamic studies) online and have to answer questions where they get feedback, they absolutely love it.
We are living in a very scary and uncertain time, with more and more people experiencing social isolation. As humans, we require socialization to maintain a healthy mental and physical state. Therefore, knowing the effects of social isolation and the ways you can prevent them can be really helpful in making your quarantine a lot easier. Sometimes individuals are unable to cope and this is where Sakoon Counselling Services can help.
Read our Self Help guides which cover anxiety and depression