How to get through social distancing isolation, according to a psychologist

Navigating social distancing for anyone is difficult, but especially for those battling depression or a sudden loss from their lives.

Whether it’s a recent break-up or struggles from daily depression, people everywhere will be tested during the Coronavirus pandemic on how to deal with loneliness as workplaces have shifted toward remote options and businesses around the neighborhood soon will be closed too. Gatherings of friends will be limited after President Trump recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people until the COVID-19 pandemic is understood better.

That leaves many Americans, especially those who seek medical care, lonely. While isolation has been linked to better forms of creativity, it’s important to note that there are ways it can affect you negatively.

At work, loneliness can hamper production output. As for your health, a study published in the journal Heart found that people who are socially isolated or lonely are more prone to a heart attack or stroke compared to those with stronger networks of people around them. Social isolation can also make people more aggressive.

But for those battling depression – more than 264 million people worldwide are affected by depression, according to the World Health Organization – social distancing during the Coronavirus outbreak can be devastating, according to Lindsay Weisner, a clinical psychologist based on Long Island.

Weisner, the author of the forthcoming book “Ten Steps To Finding Happy“, told Ladders whether you’ve battled depression all your life or have been faced with a recent hardship, it’s vital to establish some type of normalcy during social distancing.

“We’re just coming out of seasonal affective disorder and now we have to stay in our house,” Weiser said about social distancing. “That’s truly awful.”

She drew upon points in her upcoming book that aims to help people find permanent happiness through a few key points that can be useful in the time of the Coronavirus epidemic. Weisner stressed the importance of finding people that make you happy whether it’s through people you know personally to those you’ve met online through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

“You use those platforms to connect to people who will connect with you which is positive,” she said. “I think this is when we should be using social media all over the place.”

Weisner suggested looking toward Facebook where communities exist — just virtually. Things like community groups or even Reddit also are options. If you’ve been recently dumped and cannot get the cylinders of your heart moving forward, it could be a time to look toward dating apps where socially meeting might be discouraged but connecting with someone could help.

“Find a routine, find distractions – You want a routine where you’re not sitting around aimlessly but part of your routine should be trying something new each day,” she said.

A routine should be something fresh and new like picking up a hobby that you’ve put off due to time constraints. Especially for people going through a hard time, it’s a way of getting hormones fired up for a new challenge that hasn’t been previously explored like reading a book outside of your genre or taking up an online kickboxing course or continuing to exercise during the pandemic.

That doesn’t mean binge-watching a new show on Netflix, according to Weisner.

“When you’re depressed, being on a schedule really does help,” she said. “Although the idea of watching Netflix all day sounds great, it’s not as good for your mental health especially because your body will subconsciously pick up on things that somethings wrong.”

Weisner also suggested getting outside and absorbing nature as it could have extreme benefits during social distancing. If you know someone prone to anxiety or depression, do your part: reach out to them.

“It only takes a minute to tell someone you’re thinking of them and you never know when that’s going to be the difference in changing someone’s day or life,” Weisner said. “If you feel lonely, reach out to someone who might feel lonely too or to someone who might make you laugh.”