Updated: Apr 16, 2020
A month of isolation … already! This has been an interesting time, and many have made some realignments to their lives. Do I “really” need that new throw blanket to add color in the living room? Do I need to go out for another meal? Do I need to work overtime and miss another family dinner? It’s been a revealing time.
All this change has been difficult though. We feel out of control in our own lives. Inside – what has happened to our physical wellness? Are we changing from night-time pj’s into day-time pj’s? Sitting around watching tv? Have we moved our office to the dining room table and stressed in new ways? Are we drinking more than usual? A lot of people are having trouble with sleep – staying up later, sleeping later, or napping during the day and awake during the night.
All of our personal well-being works together. If something is out of balance, it affects everything. If our emotional health, or social wellness or our financial situation has been altered, it affects our psychological and physical health.
Can you recognize how your personal physical health has changed as a result of this time of isolation?
There was a time in my life when I was under extreme stress. My thyroid completely shut down. It would fluctuate between hyper and hypo – resulting in some days when I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs, and could barely move. Then a couple of weeks later, I’d be waking at 4 in the morning to go for a 5 mile walk, shop as soon as the store opened, then go to school – but this resulted in heart problems as my system was running too fast. I was treated for hyper to avoid a heart attack – needing beta-blockers and nitroglycerine tabs and thyroid meds to slow down my system.
How does your body react to stress? Have you heard the saying – “sick with worry?” Do you experience panic attacks? Sleep too much? Becoming forgetful? Do you rely on addictive tendencies to get you through it? (drink, meds, food, over-exercise). We all handle stress differently, and it can affect us differently. Some people become anorexic or bulimic in order to be able to control something in their lives. Maybe your body is reacting with headaches, that ulcer is acting up, or suffer with stomach issues and inability to digest food properly.
When our total being is out of balance it will often show up physically. Our physical wellness is affected by the changes in our lives.
We have a tendency to sleep when we're tired, and because of the extra stress that may be happening right now. That's okay. But over an extended time, routine is important in order for our bodies to find and keep its rhythm. There is a time to sleep, and a time to wake up. Taking some time for daily exercise, even if its climbing up the stairs in an apartment building, or walking around your yard and getting some fresh air is always good.
We're all being hyper-aware of the virus and washing our hands, but when we can keep our bodies healthy, it will also help us in other ways. A lot of people are cooking meals at home and eating around the table, building memories and strengthening family times. Eataing nutritional food will help fight off any bacteria, virus or infections that may be around us. Vitamins, supplements and drinking more water are also benefitial for building strong physical health.
There has been so much change in the past month. Because our physical bodies react to the stress of change, it’s important to take care of yourself. You will become aware of specific things that trigger reactions in your system. Perhaps you recognize panic while you’re in a big department store. Or maybe you are feeling claustrophobic in your home. Self-care in necessary, while being diligent to social distance. Be kind to yourself, and only do what you can manage.
REST! Whenever you can, however you can. Find the balance you need.
Maybe one of the most difficult things about this time is not being able to visit with family, and hug those grandchildren. Facetime and other technology have been great at keeping us connected, but there’s a necessity in life to be physically connected. A baby that is born and then left without physical touch will perish with a “failure to thrive”.
In a psychological test done by Kory Floyd, PhD, professor at Arizona State University, it was found that people who are affection-deprived are more likely than others to experience being more lonely, more likely to experience depression and stress and in general worse health.
I once had a job working specifically with homeless women. I offered “safe” hugs, as these women were in need of safe physical touch. Human contact for them was often negative. They were so hungry for this very basic human need that they would seek me out, just for a hug. It was interesting to see how they eventually began to view themselves differently, learning that they had value. A lot of people have become isolated physically, without human contact and being denied this very basic need.
We are learning empathy at a deep level, for those who live in isolation. That's their life. There are those who live in isolation physically for protection - the homeless, the children in care, the abused. Physically challenged, mentally challenged, and some of our elderly - are living on their own. The people who help them are their source of comfort, social companionship, provide entertainment and friendship. These people are like gifts sent to them daily, appreciated and welcomed. If you are one of those care workers, thank you! for bringing kindness and compassion into their world!
I’ve been talking about isolation – but maybe thinking of it as separation will be more helpful in keeping a healthy perspective. We may be physically separated, but socially and emotionally, we are still connected with the phone and online. Some people are visiting while sitting in their cars, or visiting between a screen door and it does work.
This entire separation will end. In a few months, we’ll be out and about again, although things will never be the same. I hope that we will have learned to appreciate the things we took for granted – the value of our friends and families, the contributions that we can make within our communities, and the time we have together.