The Impact of Social Distancing on Your Mental Health

The other day a good friend reached out to say she wished we could spend some time together. She said that she’d been feeling down, which at first took me by surprise (she’d never expressed feelings of sadness to me before). But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. She’s a very social being, and—like the rest of us—she can’t exactly schedule a lunch date with her friends at the moment.

When it comes to our mental health, the impact of stay-in-place orders and social distancing is becoming a very real concern. It’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs—you may feel fine most days, but then on a random Tuesday you just can’t shake off uncomfortable feelings of never-ending isolation.

Luckily, I wasn’t having a down day when I received my friend’s message, so I immediately started thinking of ways to lift her spirits. My #1 feel-good weapon is a hug. Calming and comforting, a hug let’s a person know you’re truly there for them. Unfortunately, a hug wouldn’t work in this case.

Since my arms aren’t six feet long—social distancing recommendations and all—I’ve had to rely on my #2 feel-good weapon: laughter. (Though, full disclosure, I’m still hugging my hubby and boys every once in a while. Sorry not sorry.)

Laughter is powerful. If you can summon it up, laughter can shift your emotions from melancholy to hopefulness. With this in mind, I hopped online to find one of my favorite movie clips to send to my friend. It’s less than a minute long, and it seriously sends me into snort-laughter mode every time I see it. I can’t say that watching the video changed her day or anything, but I hoped it made her smile. I was grateful for the reminder that it’s okay for us to show our vulnerability.

If you’re interested in setting up some sort of daily practice to keep your mental health in check, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Limit your news consumption. Being informed is one thing, but don’t cross the fine line to obsession. When you read or listen to the news, follow it up by seeking out some good news. (You can just type “What’s the good news today?” into your browser and see what comes up.) Trust me, good news is out there.
  • Plan something to look forward to. Decide what herbs you’ll finally grow in that long-planned herb garden you’ve been talking about for years. Research the best time of year to go on your dream vacation, and make a list of everything you want to see and do when you go.
  • Think of each day as an opportunity. Yes, these are challenging times. But even as we socially distance ourselves, we can approach each day as another opportunity to bring some positive habits into our routine.

Perhaps one of the best things we can do right now is simply be there for each other. Let’s try to remind ourselves that “this too shall pass,” and we’re all in the same boat. Most important of all, be there with a life preserver when someone needs it.

Images from iStock/Prostock-Studio (main), Viktoriia Hnatiuk (post).

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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