As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens each day and concerns continue to escalate, 95% of Americans are now under stay-at-home orders that prohibit non-essential social interactions with non-family individuals.
Social limitations imposed by the government have had serious consequences on the wellbeing of many individuals. Several effects of these limitations include increased stress, anxiety and loneliness. These reactions are natural, as human beings are social creatures and grow from social interaction.
Long-term social isolation can have serious implications on mental health, even if this pandemic does not bar those facing mental health issues from receiving treatment. However, this is why it is important to maintain mental health in these times.
With a rather indeterminate future, many have experienced increased levels of anxiety and a lack of peers with whom to confide their feelings. Along with this, the possibility of contracting the virus can lead to increased fear.
Director of the National Institute of Mental Health Dr. Joshua Gordan reassured that these emotions are normal.
“I feel anxiety for myself and my family in terms of our health. But it’s not just anxiety about contracting the coronavirus, it’s also fear and anxiety about what’s happening to society, what’s happening to our economy, what’s happening to our friends and relatives,” Gordan said.
The most common side effect of social limitation is increased loneliness from friends and loved ones. Manoja Moganti, a senior at Dougherty Valley High School, described her experience with the stay-at-home order.
“Initially, I expected the lockdown to be shorter,” she said. “But as it got longer, I started to feel more restless and lonely.”
Additionally, she feels as though a part of her life has been taken from her, a feeling that is widespread among many high school seniors throughout America.
“It’s really sad to know that everything everyone has worked toward — a graduation and a chance to showcase their accomplishments — has been taken away from us,” Moganti said.
While the harsh realities of today’s environment come with unfortunate side effects, mitigating them is rather simple. With modern technology, it is almost as though nobody is truly isolated from others.
“I think social media has played a huge role in my ability to stay connected with my friends, through apps like Snapchat, Instagram, texting and FaceTime,” Moganti said. “It helps me feel better and eases some of the loneliness caused by isolation.”
Mental health psychologist Desiree Dickerson emphasized the importance of maintaining these connections through virtual means as well as of establishing a daily routine to “normalize” the situation. This may help reduce anxiety as well as stress, she said, connecting it with the importance of living in the present.
“Take each day as it comes and focus on the things you can control,” Dickerson wrote.
Social interaction may be closer to home than one might expect, and one benefit of social limitations has been increased interaction with family. This can build relationships as well as serve as a treatment for loneliness.
Sophomore Annesha Dey believes that having a sibling who is a similar age helps her cope with the isolation.
“The most difficult part about social distancing is feeling isolated from friends, but I feel as though being around my brother every day makes social distancing seem slightly less harsh. It feels like I’m quarantined with one of my friends, to say the least,” Dey said.
While the current situation may seem daunting and its consequential feelings unfortunate, the reality of the situation is that fending off these feelings is both essential and simple to maintaining good health.
“By embracing good mental-health and well-being measures, and by relying on others when necessary, we can protect ourselves and those around us,” Dickerson said.