Mar 30, 2020
Members of Resource Center’s Grief Support Group for people who have lost a same-sex spouse aren’t meeting because the community center is closed. But group members are looking out for each other and keeping in touch by email, finding ways to give each other the support they need while still following ever-tightening restrictions, shelter in place orders and the strictures of social distancing.
And that, said local counselor Jimmy Owen, is a great thing.
Isolation is about distance, Owen said, while loneliness is an emotional state. Isolation can cause loneliness, and that loneliness can spiral into anxiety and depression.
But there are, Owen said, a number of things you can do to avoid that spiral, To start, ask yourself several questions: What am I grateful for today? Who am I checking in on today?
If your office is closed and you’re home from work, don’t focus on the social isolation, Owen urged. Instead, use the time to do some things you have been wanting to do and haven’t had time for. Remain productive.
“Paint a room,” Owen said. “Plant some flowers. Binge a Netflix series. Clean a closet.”
Exercise is important, he added. So go outside and get some fresh air. Social isolation doesn’t mean staying inside. Go for a drive in the country.
Eating healthy is always important. So take the extra time on your hands to shop for healthy food and prepare a meal you don’t ordinarily have the time to make.
“Try to alter some of your normal,” Owen suggested, noting his own new normal is that his practice suddenly converted entirely to telemedicine.
He also reached back to a time when he and his partner lived apart for more advice. Although there was a physical distance between them then, they’d play a game together online. They would read the same book and discuss it or watch a TV show while talking together on the phone.
Based on that personal experience, Owen suggested alleviating isolation now by holding a virtual book club meeting, or even a virtual happy hour.
And rather than concentrate on our own struggles dealing with isolation, “de-reflect,” Owen said. By that, he means check on someone else. He’s spending time focusing on his mother, who’s going through chemotherapy. He urged people to check on an elderly relative or friend. Check on someone who’s dealing with depression or has had to cope with a difficult situation, whether it’s related to the coronavirus or not.
Find an online group to join, Owen advised, noting that many meditation groups are popping up on the innternet.
And perhaps most importantly, Owen suggested, use this time to become a better person: “Practice gratitude … . This is a time unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Keep a journal. Share this experience for generations to come.”
Reflecting on his own situation, Owen wrote in an email, “I just completed a 1,000-piece puzzle. Alone. Another week of social distancing is behind me. Challenge complete. Usually, puzzles are limited to visits with my mom, but she is currently on lock down at her assisted living facility. Completing this puzzle was nostalgic. It helped pass time and, by talking on the phone with Mom as we worked on our separate puzzles in separate spaces, we created connection and a unique memory.”
We will get through this, Owen reassured. “Reach out and create opportunities to connect — even if the connections are at least six feet away.”