Are You Still Physically Distancing and Therefore Socially Isolating
Socialising has and always will be an imperative and innate part of the human experience. We literally need to socialise to survive. There has been a global shift to self-quarantining and self-isolation for those who are immune compromised. With more people working from home, many are missing out on this important aspect of our lives. Non-physical socialising is, now more than ever, incredibly important for our mental health. Socialising increases our capacity to cope in high stress situations. This blog will take you through the negative effects of isolation, the importance of socialising, and most importantly how you can keep socially active while physically distancing.
What does the research tell us?
The world around us has gone from an incredibly social environment to one where we now feel uncomfortable to go out socially, shake hands, hug and get close to those we care about. We cannot underestimate the effects this has on our mental health as well as the mental health of our loved ones’. Isolation is not something we have adapted to accept as normal, and nor should we. Research indicates that social isolation can wreak havoc on an individual’s cognitive, mental and physical health. Being isolated has been linked to experiencing everyday events as more intensely stressful, and passively coping with stressors, as well as vascular resistance, a factor in hypertension1. Furthermore, perceived social isolation was also associated with depression, poor sleep quality, and impaired immunity2.
Adjusting to physical distancing
Socialising has forever been a means to human connection. Although we all have different needs in terms of the level and amount of connection, we all need it to some degree. Especially in times of high stress, uncertainty and anxiety, we need to surround ourselves with the people that love and care about us most, even if it means virtually. Although virtual socialising could never replace the value of face-to-face connection, we have to be incredibly grateful for the resources we have access to.
Positive social support can increase resilience at a time like this, especially because social isolation, and all the stressors that come with it, is now a common and shared experience. Having an outlet to speak about your experiences, struggles and worries with friends and family members can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Tips to increase your social connection
Here are a few tips you can use to restore some normalcy in your lives in terms of socialising:
- Spend quality time with the people you are living with. Use this time to improve and build on your existing relationships. You’d be surprised how much we take these for granted.
- Get to know your neighbours – safely! Can you have a chat to them over a fence, or balcony without getting too close? We’ve seen this happen across the world.
- Check in on your friends routinely. You never know the effects isolation is having on others. They could have a toxic household, or just need a break from their kids!
- Have coffee with your friends over video call. You used to go to cafes before, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you from doing the same now. It may not have the same atmosphere, but again, maintaining as much normalcy in our lives is key. You can even get a group of friends together on skype, zoom, or the many other video calling platforms that allow multiple people at one time.
- Make it consistent. Routines are ever so important when you’re stuck at home. Want to have coffee at 9am every day? Do it! It will help you have some sort of structure to start your day. You could even have breakfast together.
- If you have children, organise some video based play dates with their friends, so they can show each other their toys, or their at-home school set-up. It’s important the people around you are also receiving the connection they need.
- Join online groups. There are lots of groups being created to support those in isolation. Book clubs, Q&A sessions, group fitness sessions etc.
It is up to us to make the conscious effort and commitment to take care of ourselves mentally, just as we have been doing so physically by physically distancing, self-quarantining and washing.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help please contact the Suicide Call back Service on 1300 654 467 or Life Line on 13 11 14. Alternatively you can also call 000.
Cacioppo, J.T., & Hawkley, L.C. (2003). Social Isolation and Health, with an Emphasis on Underlying Mechanisms. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine46(3), S39-S52. doi:10.1353/pbm.2003.0049.
Hawkley, L. C., & Capitanio, J. P. (2015). Perceived social isolation, evolutionary fitness and health outcomes: a lifespan approach. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370 (1669), 20140114.