In this period of COVID-19, loneliness is on the rise globally, particularly among young people.

How many of our households in T&T are finding healthy ways to deal with conflict as we continue to shelter in place?

We defer light-heartedly to the issue of “cabin fever” but it is a real possibility in what could be a traumatising time for anyone and more pronounced in homes with already strained interactions.

Yet for some, social isolation is not a new concept. Its impact has been a research feature along with loneliness in the mental health of the elderly and those living alone.

By example, the American Psychological Association (APA) says “there is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.”

Quoting the study co-authored by professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, at Brigham Young University, www.apa.org says “lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder [and] loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.”

The APA 2019 article goes on to say, “In an effort to stem such health risks, campaigns and coalitions to reduce social isolation and loneliness – an individual’s perceived level of social isolation – have been launched in Australia, Denmark and the United Kingdom.”

These are all national programmes aimed at specific populations that “bring together research experts, non-profit and government agencies, community groups and skilled volunteers to raise awareness of loneliness and address social isolation through evidence-based interventions and advocacy” (www.apa.org/monitor).

The outbreak of Covid-19, however, has seen national communities, globally, mandated into social isolation, social distancing and quarantine, where necessary. Apart from essential services, most employers have implemented remote officers with virtual accountabilities, often, indefinitely.

Parents with school-aged children are grappling with new realities of home-schooling while meeting daily work quotas as all learning institutions have ceased engagement. Our lives have changed dramatically and with the consequence of varying levels of pressure in our relationships, in cohabiting, and on emotional wellbeing.

Staying indoors and social distancing are not the natural ways of our socialisation. This has left people feeling powerless and sometimes without facility to help other vulnerable family members. People are acting out behaviours as we are restricted even from accessing public spaces for exercise.

And, social distancing and shelter in place are austere measures that can elicit both short-term and long-term emotional effects as they place a strain on our lives, and especially as the novelty of being at home wears off.

“While staying at home with loved ones comes with a silver lining for some, it is understandably fraught with the anxieties of a massively disruptive global crisis. Most of us are grappling with fears of illness, worries about income, exhaustion from caretaking, and uncertainty of what the next day – let alone the next year – could bring,” says www.talkspace.com.

“For many folks, home isn’t friendly or safe to begin with. Self-isolation can heighten what may already have been volatile or unstable living situations,” says talkspace.com.

Much has been said and advocacy has increased for issues such as domestic violence which in some instances has escalated. Campaigns have been stepped-up for issues of childhood abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and other intimate partner violence issues.

Murders and homicides have not abated to match the current isolation and distancing, in my view, and one wonders how many, if any, are due to the pressures of the current measures in an already criminogenic community as T&T.

Quite apart from the functionalities within the home, some of us are encumbered living in spaces with the tenants from hell (so questionable and disruptive their behaviour) or with landlords seemingly related to the king of Hades.

In social isolation, all issues are intensified because people with different values live in spaces to which they are now confined and that include people within marriages, families and other relational proximity.

Staying mentally healthy during social isolation

“One important way to protect your mental health during social isolation is continuing to communicate with those you love, using technology like video chat” says Kelly Burch at insider.com . Burch’s article recommends the following excerpts:-

Exercise: Exercise boosts endorphins (our feel-good chemicals) and decreases stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. During social isolation …you can workout at your desk, and maintain strength and muscle.

Meditate: Research has found that meditation can reduce anxiety and depression. A 2019 study of mobile meditation apps found that ten minutes per day of meditation made college students feel less depressed and more resilient.

Connect with nature: Getting outdoors, especially into sunshine and green space, can improve mood. If you can’t get outside, listening to natural sounds (like that of rain or birds) or even looking at pictures can help (insider.com).

#AllMindsMatter2020 #LifeinatimeofCovid19