Many of us are facing struggles during this time of isolation and social distancing. We caught up with Jen Milau, a nurse practitioner at The Lindner Center of HOPE, to learn more about the importance of staying connected, common fears and concerns, and tips that can help someone who is experiencing loneliness during isolation.
Most people have never experienced a situation in which human interaction was this restricted. Now that we communicate virtually throughout our daily life, you can maintain connections using online tools:
- Video Apps: Zoom is the new normal—embrace it! Milau suggests coordinating a fun activity like game nights to play Scattegories or trivia. For special events like birthdays and bridal showers, send care packages to each guest’s home ahead of time and play games as you would in person.
- Meetup: This service connects you with others who have similar interests.
- Support Groups: The National Alliance on Mental Illness has local chapters that offer support groups for many psychological conditions. Another option is Mental Health America, which offers in-person and online options.
- Telehealth and Telepsychiatry: Clinicians at The Lindner Center of HOPE are seeing patients every day through Telehealth, with options for telephone or video sessions for individual and group therapy as well as medication management.
Combat These Common Fears and Concerns
“One of the most common triggers to anxiety is fear of uncertainty or the unknown,” Milau says. “While uncertainty is still present in ‘normal’ times, it has become a glaring part of life in the midst of the pandemic.” Shift your attention to aspects of life you can control. The first step for this is identifying unhelpful thought patterns that might be distorting our ability to think rationally. These patterns include:
- Catastrophizing: Assuming that the worst-case scenario is inevitable.
- Fortune telling: Believing we know what an outcome will be despite the fact that we have no evidence to support this assumption.
- Personalization: Viewing something as directly related to or because of ourselves when in reality it has nothing to do with us
- Mental filtering: Interpreting circumstances or events through a purely negative lens while ignoring potential positives.
How to Stay Positive
Balance the overwhelming news and media with an intake of hopeful and optimistic content through conversations with friends, reading for pleasure, or learning a new skill or hobby. Milau suggests gratitude journaling. “Remember that our current conditions are temporary,” Milau says. “While we can’t say for certain when or how we will return to a state of ‘normalcy,’ we do know that this state will not last forever.”
Self-Monitor and Seek Help
Be on the lookout for warning signs of depression and anxiety. Some of these might include:
- Withdrawing from others by declining phone calls or choosing not to respond to text messages
- Staying in bed during times when you’re not sleeping or physically in need of rest
- Deferring school assignments or work deadlines in favor of binging on Netflix series for extended periods of time
- Not leaving the house for fresh air when weather permits
- Self-medicating through alcohol or drug use
Get professional help if you need it. Whether you are struggling with an increase in symptoms of a known mental illness or are concerned that you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, there are resources available to help you cope. Contact The Lindner Center of HOPE by visiting its website or call (513) 536-4763 to start the conversation.