According to the World Health Organization, 31 December 2019 marked the emergence of the first case of “viral pneumonia in Wuhan, People’s Republic of China.” By 09 January 2020, the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) preceded global lockdowns as the respiratory infection spread internationally. Additional safety measures were mandated while the disease transmitted throughout the world in a manner comparable to the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic. Restrictions included social distancing, self-quarantine measures, travel bans and the utilization of face coverings. Although effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19, subsequent feelings of isolation may adversely impact both mental and physical well-being.
Researchers Hawkins and Capitanio illustrated the congruence between social isolation and higher risks of depression, restless sleep and difficulty navigating personal interactions. A host of physical and psychological comorbidities were exhibited by youngsters who were deemed “exceptionally lonely.” Adults experiencing communal exclusion are at an increased risk for cardiovascular ailments, hyperlipidemia and weakened immunity reserves. Moreover, accomplishing tasks that require cognitive reasoning and physical activity proved increasingly challenging for the elderly populace.
The Lancet medical journal recently highlighted the plight of nonessential workers and individuals voluntarily sheltering in place at home. Those who participated in quarantine procedures were unmotivated, anxious and also suffered from symptoms of acute stress disorder and insomnia. Furthermore, individuals who were secluded due to possible disease exposure demonstrated signs of mental exhaustion, guilt and nervousness. Once government mandates were revoked, quarantined personnel continued to engage in abnormal social behaviors by avoiding crowded spaces and refusing physical contact with individuals who were potentially infected with COVID-19.
To combat the uncertainty and stress associated with social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying in touch with loved ones via telephone, social media or videoconferencing. Several smartphone apps are dedicated to providing free video chat and messaging services, while social media platforms allow users to message friends and family members at no cost.
The CDC endorses physical exercise and the incorporation of a healthy diet while discovering reliable sources of information for news updates and pandemic guidelines. Fitness websites present numerous step-by-step exercise routines and food recipes available for consumers to peruse. Likewise, the World Health Organization provides concise and up-to-date COVID-19 information via public articles and live streamed press conferences. In the event that feelings of isolation begin to surface, the CDC endorses contacting a health care provider to learn the proper coping mechanisms.
As new cases of COVID-19 are detected daily, maintaining a healthy equilibrium with both mental and physical health is essential. Contacting friends and family members while remaining informed of the latest medical guidelines are simplistic strategies that yield normalcy during such abnormal times.
The following are free and confidential organizations that provide mental health resources and emotional support:
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357 – Please dial for help with mental and/or substance abuse.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 – Please call for help with suicide prevention.
211: Please call for crisis assistance. (U.S. Residents)
2145 EDT – Author: Leanne Gregory, Cinematographer: Madinah Slaise