By Jasmine Sufi R.TCMP, Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist.
2020 has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, we got thrust into our first lockdown that put us in a frenzy of fear. We were advised to reduce the risk of spreading COVID 19 we had to stay away from work, school, family, and friends. The COVID 19 virus has adapted and mutated to take advantage of our social behaviour and use our interactions to continue to survive and thrive. 10 months later we are continuing to limit contacts and we wonder how this will affect us in the years to come.
The Biology of Isolation
The human species has long evolved to be social beings. We have adapted to live in family and community settings that allow for constant daily interaction with others. These interactions are what shapes our personalities and has evolved our brains to crave and reward us for the interactions we have with others. Simply interacting with others has been found to release oxytocin and dopamine, neurotransmitters in our brain that help us feel happy and helps reduce cortisol levels, helping us to reduce stress. A hug, feels amazing because it releases serotonin another feel good neurotransmitter that uplifts our mood, makes us calmer and helps us be more confident. Our daily interpersonal relationships help us be happier, help us manage stress, boosts our immune system, reduces anxiety and improves the health of our brain by protecting it from neurodegenerative diseases.
Social distancing has changed the way we do everything. So what has 10 months of social distancing, with no coworkers, no classmate, no social interactions done to us? Good question. For many, isolation has meant, anxiety, depression, and increased stress. Not to mention the burden and grief that the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one has brought on. This past year has been hard and quite different for many. Our social interactions are an essential part of keeping us healthy as well as regulating our mood and physical well being. Pandemics are not a new thing. As a human population we have been through this before and we will come out of it again. We are equipped more than ever to be able to cope better.
Our Strength Is Our Ability To Adapt!
The good news is that we are a very resilient species we have seen what happens when we work together and have survived and prospered because of it. Now more than ever, we have the technology to help support social interactions better than ever before. We are still able to laugh together, cry together, console each other through video and phone calls. These interactions are still able to produce some of the neurochemical changes that a face-to-face interactions can produce. Yes, at first it may not feel the same but in time we do adapt and can still gain some satisfaction with reaching out and having a simple conversation. We need to interact and socialize, and we have the means of doing it in many different ways in fact. We are not alone and are in fact all (globally) in it together! Reach out to the ones you love, interact on a daily basis, share your thoughts and feelings, remember to make time for regular exercise and do activities that can get you out of your head and quiet your mind such as Yoga and meditation. All of these strategies can help achieve mental calm, promote healthy stimulation of the mind and keep you happier.
Some strategies that can keep you engaged and connected may include:
- Simple phone call
- Writing letters
- Video calls through platforms like zoom, whatsapp, google meets (gmail)
- Play online games with anyone in the world
- Schedule an online movie watch session or a book club with friends.
- Exercise from the comfort of your home with a loved one online.
Remember we are all in this together and are struggling with the same obstacles and feelings. If depression and anxiety is becoming overwhelming please reach out to your medical professionals such as your medical doctor, therapist and psychologists. There is help available.