You're not Alone! Social Distancing and Anxiety
Updated: May 18, 2020
by Jessica O'Donnell
Hey Ladies! Are you surviving out there? If the answer is barely, I can relate. But, please know that you’re not alone!
As a mom to three children it’s certainly been a shock to adjust to our current routine of social distancing and staying close to home. While I fully grasp the privilege that is being safe at home and also feel such gratitude to all essential frontline workers who are risking their health everyday to keep our community safe… I’m also not so low key losing my mind. And, I know that’s okay to admit!
Rather than running circles around the topic, I’m just going to say it. This article is about mental health. The mental health of yourself and your family. The mental health of your best friend, a person in a nursing home who doesn’t get to see visitors, of someone who is isolated beyond their normal social routine. It’s all of us. We are all experiencing some level of adjustment and shock whether we want to admit it or not. Added to this is the uncertainty of how long or how our lives will be affected by all of this and that can lead to some heavy emotions.
As someone who suffers with anxiety, I know not all people will relate to this article. But, the more we talk and share about mental health the more others will feel normalized in what they’re feeling. The more people talk about their struggles, the less others will feel alone. And while this pandemic is certainly elevating everyone’s emotions, struggling with depression and/or anxiety are big overwhelming things that people you know are experiencing every day whether you may realize it or not. But, now their facing it while feeling more alone than ever. I’d love to write a cute article with my ten best tips to push through, but that’s not what that is. That will be for another day.
Anxiety and Depression are struggles I have faced through most of my life. These days, it’s mostly just anxiety and I feel thankful for that. Something that has always made my anxiety so much easier to deal with is my extremely wonderful network of friends and family. It’s not necessarily talking about it, but just the check-ins, even the superficial “Hey, How’s your day going?” and as an introvert, even social interaction is crucial. Honestly, one of the hardest parts of social distancing right now is that amidst the schedule changes, supporting my kids with school and helping them maintain some level of social interaction ( via zoom, Facetime and birthday parades) , and general isolation is the fact that I now have to go out of my way to get those social interactions.
The problem is that these changes in life have now made it so that I need to be more deliberate in allowing myself some grace and self-care. And, that is just not my style. Whereas before I used to leave the house to workout, now I need to force myself to find time to do it at home. But, when work and other responsibilities are a hard distraction to ignore, working out or any other form of self-care doesn’t end up high on my list of priorities.
This is all coupled with the fact that there are so many unknowns. Unknowns are fuel to my anxiety fire. Will we get sick? Will it be severe? When will we be able to see our friends again? What does it mean that I have to measure my own risk when relaxing my social distancing limits at some point? When will the kids go back to school? How will this affect their learning and social skills and … the list goes on! The list goes on and the list is scary and overwhelming. I do not like this list one bit! Is that obvious? I wish it would disappear.
An unwelcome new symptom of my anxiety ( and many friends have found this as well) has been a disruption to my sleep schedule. It's been harder to shut my brain off so I stay up late, sleep restlessly and then have trouble getting up to start my day off on a positive note. It's hard to shutdown the devices when it's your main form of connection. But, shocker, I may try picking up and reading a physical book in an attempt to get away from a screen and give my brain the proper break it needs in order to relax.
The truth is that sometimes I wish I would wake up and this will all have been some crazy a** nightmare.
As someone who has anxiety, it's so easy to allow the negative thoughts and worries to take over my brain. But, you know, this past week there have been some positive moments I sat outside with my kids and painted rocks WITH them. I didn't just set it up and get back to work or some chore. I physically sat down and painted. This wouldn't have happened otherwise. And later on that day I forced myself to sit outside without my phone and just be. These were small moments and these little moments wouldn't have happened were we buzzing around from one activity to another as usual. Do I have more tough moments than blissful ones these days? YES.
Is this article a brain dump? It certainly is!
I wanted to put this all out there in hopes that maybe even just one person will see this and say “I’m not alone.” So please forgive me for this extra sloppy piece of writing. And know this, YOU are not alone. Also know that if you have the energy, reach out to someone. Especially the friends and family who are extra quiet, sometimes they need it the most. We will get through this. And we will be stronger on the other side…. And now I’m going to go take my own advice.