With the novel coronavirus COVID-19 dominating the news, it’s hard to think about anything else
sometimes, especially if you are trying to stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing,
as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Following these recommendations may help
protect you from contracting the virus, but it could also have negative effects on your mental and
Seniors who are forced to stay inside for their protection may feel lonely and isolated when they spend
countless hours at home, rather than enjoying time with friends and family, shopping, or dining out.
For many seniors, social distancing can cause excessive stress and feelings of isolation, which can have
serious health implications.
Social Distancing Creates Feelings of Isolation
The Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging found that social isolation can pose serious health risks that can be comparable to smoking or being inactive.
A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), found that more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older experience feelings of loneliness, and almost one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are socially isolated. These figures were before the Coronavirus outbreak, and many more people are affected by isolation now.
Social Distancing Can Cause Stress
According to the CDC, stress caused by social isolation can manifest as:
- Worrying about the health of yourself and others
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Feelings of disbelief, anxiety, and fear
- Exacerbated chronic health problems
- Exacerbated existing mental health conditions
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches
- Increased substance abuse
Activities to Engage Your Mind and Body
To reduce the stress and feelings of isolation caused by Coronavirus precautions, it’s important to engage in activities that are stimulating and will keep you mentally and physically active, so turn off the news for a while and try some of these activities.
Doing craft projects can be a great way to relax and be productive while staying indoors. You could work on a sewing project, knit or crochet something, take up painting or drawing, make a photo scrapbook, or learn to make jewelry. Now would be a great time to try something new.
Practicing social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t have a garden. You can grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables in pots on your deck or patio, and if you usually plant a larger garden outdoors, you should keep it up.
Exercise is critical to your health regardless of your age. While going to a gym may not be advisable, there are things you can do at home to stay fit. You could use dumbbells or exercise bands, work out with fitness DVDs, or find workouts online, and if you have limited mobility, there are plenty of chair exercises for seniors.
Stay Connected with Technology
You can use technology to stay connected to your friends and family members. It’s crucial for your well-being to maintain social connections when you can’t physically be with the people who are important to you. You could use social media, email, or text messages to communicate with your friends and family, and you could make video calls through FaceTime, Skype, or other apps to have virtual visits.
Stimulate Your Mind
Try some activities that provide you with cognitive stimulation, such as crossword puzzles, memory games, or word searches. These fun activities will help keep your mind sharp.
Learn a New Skill
You can use your computer or smartphone to access tutorials and other information that can help you learn a new skill. You could download a language app and learn a new language, watch tutorials to learn how to do simple DIY home projects, or try your hand at a new hobby by learning through YouTube videos.
Make sure to take time every week to do something you enjoy or something that will make you feel better. Take a long bath, cook your favorite meal, give yourself a manicure, read a book, listen to music, or watch your favorite movie.
This virus has created a new way of life for our society, at least for now. While no one knows how long this pandemic will last, you can learn to adapt to the new precautions and social distancing recommendations in a way that will allow you to maintain your physical and mental health.
If you are feeling overwhelmed from social isolation, you may want to talk with a close friend or family member or even seek additional help if necessary.