COVID-19 is really causing people anxiety and cabin fever. How many times have you proclaimed as you sat in your office cubicle wishing you could win the lottery, retire, or figure out a way to work from home? Now that some prayers have been answered, in a horrible way, we have this opportunity to work from home months at a time and people are literally freaking out!

But what some people are realizing is that working from home can become very isolating. The feeling of isolation can bring on the sensation of being trapped in a cage especially now when the option to go out is no longer there. When you’re alone there is nothing left to do but think about your situation in life, your relationships, and dare I say it just think about you.  It’s not as easy as loners make it appear. We are also not just talking mental stress but physical as well.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), The American Cancer Society study is the largest to date on all races and genders, but previous research has provided glimpses into the harmful effects of social isolation and loneliness. A 2016 study led by Newcastle University epidemiologist Nicole Valtorta, PhD, for example, linked loneliness to a 30 percent increase in risk of stroke or the development of coronary heart disease (Heart, Vol. 102, No. 13). Valtorta notes that a lonely individual’s higher risk of ill health likely stems from several combined factors: behavioral, biological and psychological.

“Lacking encouragement from family or friends, those who are lonely may slide into unhealthy habits,” Valtorta says. “In addition, loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress, impede sleep and, in turn, harm the body. Loneliness can also augment depression or anxiety.”

So how do you cope with it? Here are 5 steps I recommend:

  1. Learn a new language. Get started with online courses to learn Spanish or take up sign language!
  2. Perfect an old recipe or learn new ones. I mean how many times can you make spaghetti or tacos? Research new ways to make old everyday dishes! No need to spend money ordering food delivery.
  3. Plan a Weekly Family Meeting with your family across the country. Try Zoom or Google Meetings to do so easily and free. Family can use their phones or webcams to communicate and you get to see each other. And guess what this also works with friends you haven’t seen in years! Start a new club with your buddies!
  4. Start a COVID-19 Journal. Write down how all of this is making you feel. How is the pandemic affecting you and your life. This will help you get out those emotions as well as provide a written account for future generations of your family to read about for years to come!
  5. Enjoy the Solitude. I know that is what is stressing you but revel in this time to focus on YOU. How can I make my life better? Meditate for a few minutes each morning or afternoon. Spend time outside alone and soak in nature. Look around your surroundings and really SEE it.

I know this can be hard and things are scary even without the pandemic. There are many reasons we may feel isolated even when we are surrounded by crowds of people. Don’t be afraid you are with the one person who has your back everyday and all the time, YOU! So get to know that person, explore with that person, so when you’re alone, you’re really not because you are still with you!

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