by Jay A. Reed, LCSW-QS
I have felt like I have been stuck in one of those revolving doors, remember the ones that used to be at entrance of fancy hotels? Yes, I feel as though I am suck in on those doors, going around and around. I am not alone, but I cannot talk, touch, or connect with the other people going around and around with me for at least 5 weeks. It has been the recommendation from the powerful people across the nation that we practice social distancing. I know several people, who are excited about the idea of being isolated from people. These people are easily identified as introverts, they have been practicing for this lockdown all their lives. The extroverted people are not having as much fun, they may even be ignoring the recommendations and not being too distance in their socializing. I know, believe, and understand that social distancing is the best practice for our physical health, but I believe it is not best practice for our mental health. Yes, even you introverts out there are a risk of the negative consequences of social distance and isolation.
In my practice as a therapist, I have repeatedly stated that human beings are social creatures. I believe that people thrive because of their connections with others. I believe that there is safety in numbers and that teamwork is dream work (sorry, I could not help myself). All cheesy sayings aside I genuinely feel that people feel their best when they are connected to the people, they perceive support them. Whenever I take an inventory of client’s positive support systems, I often talk about their “perceived support”. It is the support we believe we have that is beneficial and now, unfortunately many people do not perceive they have much support. So many of us are isolated from the people who we easily identify as our support system. Sure, we have Facetime, and Zoom to keep us connected, but I am more frequently reminded this is not enough for us. Yes, those introverts out there will argue they are fine and that they can sustain social distancing for many more months. I do not doubt that they can and will, but I worry how hard it will be for them to return to socializing up close. I worry that for many folks, their anxiety and depression will worsen and that their tendency to avoid socially uncomfortable situations will become their norm. You see, depression and anxiety dwell in our self-isolation. These disorders will lie to you, telling you that it is good self-care to isolate, that avoiding pain is your best survival strategy. I have spent much of the last several years encouraging clients with these two specific disorders to connect with the outside world, no matter how painful or uncomfortable. I have challenged some of the most isolated people to connect with people who not only can support them but can also hold space for their pain. In my time as a grief counselor, I would often encourage clients to join my support group. I had experienced the magic of social support over and over I would explain and remind them “there is safety in numbers”.
So, am I encouraging you to ignore social distancing recommendations? Absolutely NOT! I will say it again for the people in the back; no, I am not suggesting you immediately begin socializing within 6ft again. I will suggest something else, effective for now to manage those growing feelings of loneliness and isolation. Connect with your support network, routinely check in with your tribe and remember to ask for what you need from these people. Daily messages of support, encouragement and love will help anyone; even those who believe they are doing well. I have taken to sending messages of support to my clients at least once a week. Many have responded with a simple “thank you”, some have not acknowledged the message, but many more have returned the gesture, asking me how I am doing in return. People will amaze you, more often for positive reasons. They will share themselves in a way that will remind you of the goodness in the world; we need a lot of that right now. Respond to those text messages, say yes to an invite to join a Zoom call, and connect often with your co-workers who you are so used to seeing daily.
Those of you who are Mothers, connect with other mothers who will understand the struggle of managing their child’s home-schooling requirements with their other children’s needs. Take time to especially reach out to those working mothers, who are usually working at midnight because that is the only time their family can give them. So many of these people have lost their village; remind them it is still there, beyond the woods, past the clearing (just past 6ft) waiting to embrace them again. Remind them that while nothing can replace the warm embrace of a core member of your support team, a phone call can do wonders for the soul. Be kind to your children, who have no idea what is happening and are possibly demanding more from you because of these inconsistencies. Remember your older family members, who may not be able to use technology. Snail mail is still a thing; I know many grandparents whose day would be brighten by a simple letter of hello.
I read something recently about mental health issues being a part of the next surge of this pandemic. It is sad that this is the reality for many. Do not forget about yourself through all of this. Remember nothing lasts forever, and that it is okay that you may not be able to find anything positive about this situation. Do not forget the lessons you have learned about your anxiety or depression and continue to fight the urge to avoid people. I have realized over the last few days that uncertainty will do damage to your mind and your connections if you let it. Yes, the uncertainty is always there, but so are many other things are we can remain certain of. Take Care, stay well and until we meet again (in person) know we are here to help, support, nurture and love you from afar.
In the meantime, we offer Tele mental health (Telehealth) via a HIPPA Secure software called Simple Practice. It is a great alternative to in person sessions as we encourage you to continue to take care of your mental health and do not want you to have a large gap in follow up timeframe.
You can learn more about Telehealth provided by Revive Family Counseling by visiting our website/clicking on link below www.revivefamilycounseling.com/telehealth/