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Person to Person: How to avoid feelings of isolation from others

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen, Tribune News Service on

Published in Health & Fitness

If you're like most people, staying away from friends and family during the pandemic is getting tougher. We humans, by nature, are very social creatures. Relationships make us happy.

If you live alone, you're likely feeling vulnerable to depression, plus other odd emotions you can't describe. It's typical to feel hopeless at times.

To get a grip on your emotions, ride out the storm of the pandemic, and get your mental health to a better place, try a few steps to create predictability. A routine, planned activities, and connection to specific people can help you regain your balance.

These tips can help:

- Keep a regular schedule. If you're working from home, it's easy to stay up late and oversleep in the morning. Instead, use an alarm clock for waking up at the same time each day. Also, make it a point to go to bed close to the same hour every night. This establishes rhythm in your day.

- Try to talk by phone to at least two friends every day. Texting is handy, but texting doesn't allow you to hear the voice of people who really care about you.

- Plan at least one large goal or help someone else set a large goal. This creates a little excitement. For instance, sign up for a college class. Make it a goal to keep taking classes until you finish your degree. Or, help a friend plan a home remodeling project.

- Make a few goals for local or extended travel when the pandemic is over. Having something to look forward to will make you feel more normal. This might be a trip to a regional zoo, or it might be a drive to one or two national parks. Engage a few people to share in these eventual activities with you.

"I got on YouTube to check out London and other places I've dreamed of visiting," says a friend of ours we'll call Janeen. "Virtual travel is better than nothing, at this point in time. It's fun to see video tours of cities in Australia, Africa, and India."

 

She continues, "Staying at home might be the perfect time to dream bigger. When the pandemic is over, even if I have to work overtime to pay for it, I'm going to budget for at least one major trip each year."

Feeling depressed is really having the feeling that you're stuck. The future looks bleak and hopeless, instead of fun and exciting. However, via your imagination and ability to dream of trying new things, you can build a little excitement and feel more in control of your life.

A restaurant owner we'll call Diane says she's also used revisiting the past as a way to feel happier. "About once a week, I drive by one of my old homes or apartments," she says. "It's fun to remember the activities, neighbors, and experiences I went through at that period in time. I've even driven through a couple of neighborhoods I lived in as a child."

Sharing your life with people on Facebook can work, too. For example, residents of a mid-size town in Tennessee post past pictures of neighborhoods, celebrations, and events on a special group page they've created for their city.

This is a way to experience many shared emotions with other people. It's nice when other people feel what you're feeling.

We each feel less isolated when we join a conversation, even a virtual conversation.

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(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe at www.usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

(c)2020 Person to Person, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.