Five ways to combat isolation
Social isolation and loneliness can have a significant impact on our physical, mental and cognitive health. And with the constant uncertainty and changing Government rules, it is no surprise isolation has caused an unprecedented surge in mental health issues. Loneliness is our brain's way of motivating us to reach out and interact with friends and family. When we feel lonely, we naturally want to surround ourselves with other people, and for obvious reasons, this is currently not possible.
With the uncertainty of what 2021 brings, feelings of isolation can escalate and become a problem if not addressed properly. As a result of the pandemic, nearly 10 million people will seek mental health support. Increases in depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety (to name but a few) have been noted in the aftermath of large-scale events like terrorist attacks or natural disasters.
It is important to understand how isolation can impact your day-to-day life and find ways of coping with it. Efficacy's Clinical Director, Lee Grant, identifies five ways to do exactly that.
We all need to keep up to date with current (changing!) guidelines, but watching news updates too frequently can maintain a worry cycle leading to an increase in fear and anxiety for the future. While it's important to know what the latest rules and restrictions are, limit your time watching the news, or if it is now a source of fear you could ask a friend or family member to share the headlines most relevant to you. If you find yourself on social media often, try to scroll past news announcements. One update a day should be enough.
Find a routine
It may seem like an obvious one but adding structure to your week is an excellent way of coping with isolation. Whether you are still working, on furlough or just have more time on your hands it's crucial to plan your time and set goals to feel you have accomplished something every day. Introduce new hobbies into your routine such as reading, running, painting or yoga. These activities are the perfect distraction while looking after your physical and mental health at the same time – it's a no brainer!
This past year, technology has kept friends and family closer than ever - ensure you are having regular video contact with those we love. Don't wait for someone to call you, be proactive and pick up the phone and say hello. Engage in conversations where you discuss your feelings as these can make you feel less alone and more supported. Remember, looking after others in their time of need is another good way of improving your own mental health. Think about guidance on social distancing as physical distancing, keeping up our social contacts.
Regular exercise is key
Research has shown that regular exercise leads to improved mood, increased energy, and better sleep as well as reduced feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Isolation makes us feel cut off from the world, so getting outside is a great way to feel more connected while still protecting others. Spend more time in nature as this can significantly improve mental health, making you feel happier, healthier, and more relaxed. While it's sometimes hard to get back into the swing of exercising, start off slowly (a slow short walk around the block will do) and work your way up. There is no time like the present! …and remember there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothes.
If you are struggling emotionally you may decide to seek professional help, especially if you do not, or can not talk to family and friends. Engaging in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy during difficult times will help you overcome the difficulties of isolation and give you personalised advice on how to tackle feelings of loneliness. While we continue to navigate through the pandemic, CBT therapists can provide Remote Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions from the comfort of your home via telephone or digital channels. SilverCloud – Efficacy's online therapy programme – was designed to give clients access to flexible cognitive behavioural therapy which is useful for mild to moderate mental health issues like anxiety, low mood, or financial and work-related stress.
To find out more about CBT therapy or book an appointment with a BABCP accredited therapist, please call us on 020 3795 8718, or send us a message.