Twin Rivers View on Loneliness and Isolation
Loneliness is never fun and its unhealthy but there are ways to break out of this level of existence.
Twin Rivers appreciates that the pandemic has driven many people to feel lonely and is a realistic and powerful element of the widespread pandemic fatigue that so many people are in denial about! As more people feel let down by global institutions and local communities so more people feel depressed and isolated, driven to despair, alcoholism, drug abuse and various mental health conditions.
Twin Rivers can assist is helping clients to get on track, feel better about themselves and engage in healthier thoughts and feelings about the future. For some people, social interaction in the form of residential treatment is essential so as addiction disorders or any mental health disorders can be addressed more effectively.
Why Loneliness is Increasing
Humans are social creatures, we have evolved by sticking together and forming groups, but to stop the spread of COVID-19 we all needed to start doing something that we are biologically programmed not to do – social distancing.
With the COVID-19 pandemic causing millions to sacrifice social connections – and therefore the quality of life, the challenge to balance literal survival with all the aspects that make living worthwhile has never been more apparent.
The Difference Between Loneliness and Social Isolation
Loneliness is described as the feeling of being alone, regardless of social interaction. It’s a subjective feeling regarding the difference between a person’s expected and actual levels of social interaction.
Loneliness is all about the psychological effects of a difference between what you expect in terms of contact and social support and what you eventually receive. Loneliness is never a good experience and eliminating may take a long time.
Social isolation, however, is referred to as a lack of social connections. Some individuals may suffer loneliness because of it, and others may experience loneliness without being socially isolated. Living alone or spending lots of time by yourself is not bad if it works for you in a productive way.
Your Brain on Social Distancing
Many older adults’ social lives have been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, placing them at increased risk of loneliness.
Many individuals are staying at home because they are conscious that they are at a greater risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Restaurant closures and limitations on visitors to assisted rehabilitation services have made visiting families and friends extremely difficult.
Loneliness, like hunger, is a warning signal reminding us that we’re not meant to be alone and encouraging us to feel deeper connections. If we can’t form deeper social connections because we’re social distancing due to a global pandemic, our bodies go into survival mode.
We’re starting to produce more cortisol, a stress hormone that makes us alert to threats. Our bodies feel more general inflammation, a way to prepare for recovery of any injuries that we might have when we’re out on our own without any help.
How Dangerous Is Loneliness?
People who are lonely often experience emotional pain. Losing a sense of connection can affect a person’s perspective on the world. Someone with persistent loneliness may feel endangered and mistrustful of others.
If the emotional pain continues for a long time, it may result in chronic inflammation, which increases the risk of chronic diseases and can make the person more susceptible to some infectious diseases.
Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for several physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, weakened immune systems, anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
Studies prove that chronic isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of premature death, compared to smoking, alcohol intake, and obesity.
Strategies for Coping with Loneliness
Instead of concentrating on what is not possible now, aim to refocus your thoughts on what you should do to remain connected and decide to take action. There are things you can do to help protect yourself or your loved one from the negative consequences of social isolation and loneliness.
This may include planning to reach out to friends or relatives or taking up new hobbies at home that you would not normally have time to do, such as online courses or book clubs.
Self-care is important during periods of high stress. Following guidelines for managing daily workout and sleeping habits, balanced nutrition and continuing fun experiences can help relieve the tension and improve mental and physical wellbeing.
It is also essential to stay connected and to interact with others. People who engage in meaningful experiences have a sense of purpose and tend to live longer. For example, supporting people by volunteering makes you feel less lonely and encourages you to have a sense of mission in life that is linked to better overall well-being.
There is also credible data suggesting that animal-assisted therapy can minimize feelings of loneliness. And even though the Internet often gets a bad rep, research has also shown that chatting on the forums can help.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process