We are launching a new series, Ask Kindred Place, in which our therapists offer thoughts on timely topics. Our first topic? "Coping with Isolation During the Pandemic." This month our Clinical Director, Dr. Catherine Collins, along with therapists Crystal Carter and Angela Rusk, have some great tips for coping with isolation during the pandemic.
This social isolation is depleting my energy, and I am depressed; how can I cope?
Crystal: It is so important to have an awareness that feeling low on energy or not fully yourself during this isolation is normal, and we could feel depressed because of it too.
Catherine: People came into this pandemic with stresses and issues and concerns already. And now, with the added burden of all that we’re trying to maneuver, we need to pay attention to when our depletion or depression crossed over from just dealing with the circumstances to needing to get some help for what we’re feeling. And sometimes that’s a hard path to maneuver.
Angela: We must also acknowledge that we will not get all of our social and interpersonal needs fully met, and we might not for a while. It’s crucial that, while our needs aren’t being met in this area of social support, we’re taking extra care to fill the needs that are within our control.
Before the pandemic, I was the person that was often working weird hours, and I could get by skimping on sleep, exercise, or eating well because other social activities were invigorating and fulfilling. And now that those are diminishing, I need to set boundaries and make sure that I am taking care of these things that are within my control. That way, I will have energy left to deal with this lack that will be in my life for a while.
Catherine: We need to be compassionate and patient with ourselves because most of us are running on half a tank, if that. We need to allow ourselves to treat ourselves with some TLC. But again, with the whole notion of balance, you tend to feel better if you don’t lay on the couch all weekend and binge on TV and instead strive to get that spark of motivation to do the things that will make us feel better.
Crystal: Sometimes you need to be able to turn your brain off. Binge-watching a TV show could be self-care, but if I want to binge-watch for three days straight and do nothing else, then there may be something else going on.
So it’s important to pay attention to why we feel the way we do. Do I not want to get up and do anything because I need a day to zone out and have some time to myself? Or is it because I don’t have the strength, energy, or desire to get up? We need to pay attention to ourselves and our loved ones to make sure there is a healthy balance.
Catherine: At times, a healthy balance is hard to find when some of us are working from home, and our home is no longer our retreat – it’s also our office.
Angela: Right, finding those boundaries were challenging even before the pandemic.
Many people have found that certain rituals can help – things such as changing your clothes when you’re done with the workday or taking off a work badge. Something that symbolizes once I do this thing, I don’t spend time thinking about work. I have done everything that I can for the day, giving it 100% tomorrow. And now, the best thing that I can do both for myself and my family is to put work on the shelf and renew myself.
Catherine: We must acknowledge our grief and loss. We have lost the ability to engage in things that once mattered to us, and there’s a sadness about that. But to balance that with some hope and awareness that this is not going to be forever and to have a mindfulness about where we are now and the ability to look forward.
When we’re able to loosen up some constraints, what are the things that we’re going to most want to do? Who will be the first person we visit? What will be the first things that we will want to have our kids do? This allows us to acknowledge what’s going on now but not lose sight of the fact that it’s not going to be forever, even if it can’t come quite soon enough.
Angela: One thing that’s been on my mind throughout this is a lot of times, dealing with stress, our internal goal is to get back to who we were and the way things were before. But a lot of times, that’s not realistic. The world has changed, and we have changed too, which is not always a bad thing. I’m not saying that any of these things that have happened are good because obviously, they’re not. This could be a transformative process instead of trying to get back to who I was and how things were before.
Catherine: That is so true, and I think there’s that whole new, wonderful field of exploration about growth that gets provoked through trauma. What are we going to take away from these, so far, 10 months?
Crystal: I think that goes with balancing your fear with hope, you know. It could be transformative. It could put us in a different direction. So, while there are these unknowns out there, there’s still some hope out there too.
Catherine: And we can help each other with that. It’s important to remind one another that there are resources and services available that might be helpful. It’s a personal decision to talk to someone professionally, but especially now, I think that needs to be something that we offer each other wherever we think it might be helpful.