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Tags: mental illness | pandemic | isolation | social distancing | loneliness

Mental Illness Is Epidemic During Social Isolation

a man buries his head in his hands
(Dominic Lipinski/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 08 April 2020 04:18 PM EDT

Social isolation and loneliness are linked to both the worsening of cardiovascular disease and mental health issues, according to studies. These health issues tend to get worse the more we are alone, say experts, who add the impact on your health might be as detrimental as smoking or obesity.

Life expectancy in the U.S. has already been declining, according to an opinion piece published in USA Today. There is strong evidence a major player in that decline is a dramatic increase in deaths due to suicide, drugs, and alcohol.

The Benensen Strategy Group surveyed 775 adults and asked them questions relating to the coronavirus and their mental health. A full 55% of the adults interviewed said the coronavirus affected their mental health, says Benjamin F. Miller, a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Stanford School of Medicine, in his USA Today article. 

"It's hard to imagine a scenario dealing with something as unknown as coronavirus and not be a bit stressed; however, at this moment the multitude of stressors may be like pouring gasoline on an existing wildfire," he says.

Miller adds, according to surveys, a whopping 71% of Americans are worried social isolation, an important part of fighting the virus, will have a negative impact on our mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says the pervasive climate of anxiety, stress and isolation might be especially harmful to your mental well-being and offers these tips:

1. Maintain a routine. If you are not used to working from home, create a teleworking routine that helps you get into the right mindset. Designate a work area, and stick to regular working hours. Make sure you shower and dress in the morning and wear casual work clothes — not sweats — to signal the start of the work day.

2. Take reasonable precautions, but do not go overboard. Follow reliable sources of information, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to keep you up-to-date on health precautions you should be taking. This is important, says NAMI, if you suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or health anxiety. In other words, if the CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds, do not make it a minute.

3. Find ways to get motivated. If you are prone to depression and are finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning, focus on accomplishing chores or start a project. Exercise is a good mood booster and there are dozens of workout videos online to help you get started.

4. Stick to consistent meal times. Avoid stress-snacking and eat regular meals to maintain mental and physical equilibrium. Try to eat healthy foods, however, but a freshly baked cookie now and then might just be the comfort food you need right now.

For more tips, check out the NAMI website.

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Social isolation and loneliness are linked to both the worsening of cardiovascular disease and mental health issues, according to studies.
mental illness, pandemic, isolation, social distancing, loneliness
Wednesday, 08 April 2020 04:18 PM
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