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In the age of COVID-19, we have experienced deep fear, uncertainty, grief, and loss—an upheaval of normalcy.
How this will affect many of us in the coming months—a time of cold and increasing darkness—could exacerbate any trauma symptoms we are all dealing with.
In my home, Naperville, Illinois, 40 percent of the population lives alone. As the population has been instructed to avoid physical contact, keep a minimum of six feet from other people, and wash our hands—we have had to forego satisfaction of one of our most basic needs—human touch and social connection.
Research on the challenges experienced from lack of social contact and human touch has been ongoing: a 1999 study determined that when children faced these challenges they developed a “failure to thrive,” a 2017 medical review examined the terminology and link between social networks and loneliness, and a 2020 study has begun, hypothesizing an implication in the association between loneliness, social isolation, and mortality.
Some trauma symptoms are:
>> Having strong negative beliefs about yourself, other people, or the world.
>> A loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy.
>> Feeling distant or cut off from other people.
>> Trouble experiencing positive feelings, such as loving feelings for people close to you.
>> Irritable behavior.
>> Feeling especially guarded.
>> Feeling jumpy.
>> Difficulty concentrating.
>> Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
>> Irrational fear for our loved ones.
What Can We Do About it?
Building resilience is something each of us can do to ease some the trauma from isolation.
1. Facilitate safe interaction.
A good goal for those who live alone is to make additional effort at social connection now—while the weather is still warm. If you have the resources, join an organization whose purpose fits your values—even remote involvement will add to your resilience.
Keep to your routine and structure.
Purposely say hello to your neighbors.
Telephone friends and family regularly. Indulge in the safest ways you know for interacting with people face-to-face.
2. Take care of yourself.
Get outside every single day. Meditate or pray. Get daily exercise. Eat healthy food. Keep to your regular self-care with good grooming.
Learn something new.
Keep a journal and write about what you are grateful for and why you are needed in this world.
Limit watching the news to about 30 minutes per day.
Watch movies and television shows that make you laugh.
Take a look at what medical experts have to say in their ongoing work to develop treatments and a vaccine. If you are concerned about any medical condition, contact your physician or the local health department.
3. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
If you are struggling—reach out.
Find some telehealth counseling or face-to-face therapy sessions with a licensed clinician. They will help you identify some day-to-day goals, challenge your negative thoughts and feelings, and strengthen your innate resilience
Remember: you do not have to be alone in all of this!