The “Social Distancing” Blues by Summer Scott, MA

Distancing in the Park

Summer Scott, M.A., ALC, NCC

Research tells us in abundance that isolation has a negative impact on mental health after certain periods of time. So, what do we do when the isolation is government-mandated?


Here are some tips on how to manage the depression, anxiety, irritability, fear, or boredom that may come along with being quarantined:


  1. Don’t lie to yourself! This is a difficult time for so many people. It can also be quite scary! Whatever you are feeling about this situation, be honest with yourself. The first step to completing the rest of this list is to acknowledge, accept, and validate your emotions (whether they are positive or negative).
  2. Create a routine. I know, this is supposed to be a break – but, oftentimes, a break that goes on for too long can begin to feel purposeless or aimless. It’s no secret that these are feelings commonly associated with depression. Keeping up with a schedule or checklist of daily activities that include both necessary tasks and acts of self-care can help ward off feelings of meaninglessness or hopelessness.
  3. Don’t completely “social distance”. Make it a point to include a full video call, phone call, or text conversation on your agenda. Quarantine does NOT mean you should go without contact to other humans! We are social animals and technology makes this easier for us, so take advantage.
  4. Try something new. This situation could be excellent for learning and practicing a skill or catching up with that fun activity you’ve wanted to try. Is there a hobby you’ve been meaning to test out? A TV show you’ve wanted to watch? What about learning more about meditation to help manage your anxiety? There are tons of options; take a moment to list a few that will assist in taking up some of your excess time.
  5. Limit your consumption of information regarding COVID-19. Social media tends to sensationalize and even distort facts, frequently making circumstances feel much worse than they actually are. The CDC and your state’s public health center are two of the few objective sources of news about this virus. Temporarily “hide” posts about COVID-19 in your feed. Make it your goal to check only reliable outlets when you need an update. And when you do, be sure to regulate. For example, you might limit yourself to reading about COVID-19 once every other day for ten minutes.
  6. Rely on altruism! Altruism is the belief in or act of helping others – and, good news! Research supports the notion that when you’re helping someone else, it helps you, too. Your brain experiences a “high” as its reward center lights up. It’s downright biological! So, whether you’re completing an act of kindness, doing a chore for someone else, or just sharing something funny with others, add altruism to your To Do list.
  7. Actively restructure your thoughts. If you catch yourself in the “doom and gloom” or worrying endlessly about this situation, write your thoughts down and intentionally try to change them to something more helpful. For instance, if you are thinking “this is never going to end!” you might modify it to “this is an opportunity to enrich my life with other things besides school and work.” In doing this, don’t make goals that are unrealistic (e.g., “I am going to completely renovate my house”). In other words, be easy on yourself with your ambitions and with your negative thoughts. Validate your feelings, don’t dwell for too long, and give yourself time to recover so that you can react in an appropriate and positive manner.
  8. Don’t hesitate to schedule with your therapist. Most of us in the mental healthcare industry are working with the emotions and situations surrounding COVID-19 every day. The team at Behavioral Sciences of Alabama is providing video intake sessions and follow-up meetings via video or phone call. We are here to help! If you’ve wanted to start counseling for any reason, now is a perfect time to make it a part of your weekly routine. Or, if you’re having a difficult time with this new way of living, please reach out and make an appointment. Our office number is 256-883-3231. We look forward to hearing from you.
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