SOCIAL ISOLATION

by Wilhelmina Handley

We are all hardwired to interact with others, especially during times of stress.  When we go through a trying ordeal alone, a lack of emotional support and friendship can increase our anxiety and hinder our coping ability.  Forced isolation due to Covid 19 does not mean we are lacking any emotional support or friendship, however it is a stressful time worrying about what is going to happen or are my family safe.  This can cause depression and anxiety also.

The Importance of Human Connection

Yes, other people can be irritating. But they are also our greatest source of comfort, and an impressive amount of psychological research underscores the importance of human contact.

Rejection by others psychologically wounds us more deeply  than almost anything else, and research by reveals that ostracism can lead to feeling actual physical pain.   Loneliness is not good for anyone's health.  It increases levels of stress hormones  in the body and leads to poor sleep, a compromised immune system, and, in the elderly, cognitive decline.  

Alone in a constant changing environment, the sensory information available to us, and the ways in which we process it, can change in unpredictable ways.  For example, we normally spend most of our time attending to and processing external stimuli from the physical world around us. However, monotonous stimulation from our surroundings may cause us to turn our attention  inward, which most of us have much less experience handling.

This can lead to a profoundly altered state of consciousness. We may begin to question what’s going on in our surroundings: Is that creaking sound upstairs just your old house pushing back against the wind, or something more sinister? This ambivalence leaves us frozen in place and wallowing in unease—especially if we’re alone. When we’re uncertain, the first thing we usually do is to look to the reactions of others to figure out what is going on. Without others with whom to share information and reactions, ambiguity becomes very hard to resolve. When this happens, our mind can quickly race to the darkest possible conclusions.

Unpleasant things can also happen when small groups of people experience isolation together.  They can experience changes in appetite and sleep patterns. Some stop being able to accurately track the passage of time and lose the ability to concentrate. The boredom that results from being around the same people, with limited sources of entertainment, causes a lot of stress—and everyone else’s mannerisms become a grating, annoying, and inescapable source of torment.

It is important to me aware of mind, body & spirit.  Rather than trying to fill in your time and look for anything to keep you busy, take this time to look within.  Who are you?  How are you dealing with the situation right now?  Why are you dealing with it in this particular way?  Take this time to learn about yourself, really get to know who you are because in this crazy, fast world, we may have just lost ourselves.