Mental Health: A Psychological Approach In Times Of Social Isolation
We, as social beings heavily rely on connection and physical touch, and without it, there is suffering.
As the Philippines enters a three-month-long community quarantine, many people are physically and mentally drained which leads to the feeling of being anxious, confused, frustrated, and as what experts labeled as ‘quarantine fatigue.’
The levels of anxiety brought by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are increasing at a very alarming rate. “People who were already struggling with being estranged from family members, struggling with co-parenting, or living with difficult family members are seeing their problems intensify. Not only are these problems intensifying, but the regular stress relievers that people are used to, such as going to the gym, nightlife, and even AA and NA meetings, are no longer available.” says — Andrea Bonior, licensed clinical psychologist and author of Detox Your Thoughts. On the other hand, many people recognize the vital role of quarantine to curb the spread of the disease and the government as we all know, imposed physical distancing, stay-at-home orders, and other measures that are critical to ‘flatten the curve.’ However, prolonged isolation has a tipping point for human beings can tolerate because we as social creatures crave the need for physical touch and it doesn’t just need to be hugs, kisses, or high fives. But experts point out the psychological and emotional need to do so.
A gender-based study released from the National Center for Biotechnology Information led by Dr. Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg shows that women need eight to 10 meaningful touches a day to promote physical and emotional health, and across the board, studies show that men, women, children, and adults can benefit from touch because it triggers oxytocin release.
Oxytocin, a hypothalamic nonapeptide, is linked to increased levels of social interaction, well-being, and anti-stress effects.
What One Can Do To Relieve Anxiety In The Midst Of Quarantine
We, as human beings, are afraid to fall. Many of us pushed the panic button, making giant changes in our lives with the idea of staying alive, and Recognizing that each day is going to change our behaviors in a slightly different way than the day before.
Reprogram Your Mindset
Reprogramming your subconsciousness to be adaptable to a new normal can be a challenge, but we have to remember that your mind is a key to your success. Mind reprogramming begins with choosing what you want — right now and in the future — and to focus on it. Give your brain a direction. As Tony Robbins says, where focus goes, energy flows. Je Hemmings, a Behavioral Psychologist says, “acquiring more knowledge is important for self-development and mind reprogramming. Further knowledge and information lead to a better way of thinking, perceive it in a positive way that we can go through this, and this whole fiasco will lead to an end.” This suggests that sometimes the simple way of thinking can lead to understanding and empowerment in how we think and move as a whole.
We must understand that we have no control over the situation, instead, we can control our approach to uncertainties.
Practice Safe Physical Distancing, But Be Emotionally Connected
We all missed physical contact with people, but the power of social media will allow us to connect with people even on the other side of the world. Social media can be a platform for social support, people are socially integrated for a connection that will bring stronger bonds and attachments with each other.
Tristen K. Inagaki, Researcher, and a fellow from the University of Pittsburgh highlight the importance of giving social support, her study shows that empathy and engaging in helpful actions can increase your awareness of social connectedness, and that includes posting of responsible videos on TikTok that’ll make people laugh or some point, empowered; leading a donation drive online to help our front-liners and vulnerable sectors of society; Vlogging and promoting social awareness, self-development, and life hacks.
While most of us are at home and/or practicing safe distancing in public places, that doesn’t mean to be emotionally distant. Help others and stay connected with people in your circle.
Recognize and Validate Negative Feelings
It is important to know that we are aware of what we feel during these times. However, the idea of validating what we feel can be a complex one. Acknowledging and validating is more about welcoming the fact that we are feeling them. In 1980, Psychologist and Professor Emeritus Robert Plutchik introduced the Wheel of Emotion, a psychological theory of emotion which cited the eight basic emotions: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust.
According to a Keele University graduate and Counsellor Elaine Mead, BSc, “Plutchik’s wheel is a strong visual representation of how our emotions present themselves”. She outlined the polar opposites to develop Plutchik’s theory: Sadness is the opposite of Joy; Anticipation is the opposite of Surprise; Anger is the opposite of Fear; Disgust is the opposite of Trust.
One of the best ways to recognize and validate these emotions is by following the research outlined by Ces Sims, an acronym TEARS of HOPE which involves;
Teach and Learn — embrace self-awareness and personal knowledge.
Express — creativity in any form to enable openness and curiosity.
Accept and befriend — increase self-compassion and tolerance for frustration.
Re-Appraise and Re-Frame — identify thoughts of patterns. We can enforce Cognitive-Behavioral therapy (CBT) — a scientific-based approach to challenge negative thoughts, feelings, behavior, and beliefs and restated in a positive term.
Social support — mainly focus on loving-kindness meditation (LKM), a religious practice that helps develop positive feelings towards all other living creatures.
Hedonic well-being/happiness — emphasize that well-being consists of pleasure. It is an evaluation of life in terms of experience, meaning you will add positive experiences to your life, focus on happy memories, and savor successes.
Observe and attend To — practice Mindfulness exercise. A focus on the present by being mindful of your daily food intake, interactions in relationship with people in a non-judgemental way, and be mindfully present on a conversation, so with your daily activities (what you have done so far.)
Physiology and behavioral changes — focus on relaxation, breathing exercises, and self-care.
Eudaimonia — this means to strive for goals in life and a sense of authenticity.
A Word From The Writer
We are all worried — for our personal health, financial security, social stature, and overall well-being. These are nothing without actions, it may be hard at first but as you progress, your mind and body are likely to wander repeatedly.
With a clear aim, practice, patience, and understanding, you’ll get better. A crisis such as this, it is important to remember that everyone we are in this together — think of others, reach out however you can, and remember to ask for help if you need it. In the next article, I will be posting, Mental Health: A (Christian) Biblical Approach In Times Of Social Isolation.