The effects of isolation on mental health during a pandemic

Human beings are social by nature and isolation wears out social networks, which causes loneliness. Social isolation can affect your mental health in the following ways;

Stress

Although stress is a normal part of life, chronic stress takes a toll on your mental health. Many situations like social isolation due to a pandemic can cause and/or increase stress. Sometimes, you cannot control or predict what is going around you; this causes you to be always alert.

Stress increases the chances of developing anxiety and depression. This can affect children, adolescents, and adults. Depression is a mental health disorder that persists over a long time and it is not to be confused with mood fluctuations. Staying indoors, a lack of human contact, and the monotony of doing the same things every day can increase your levels of stress.

Insomnia

Mental health and sleep are strongly connected. Lack of sleep affects your mental health and psychological state. Social isolation might cause or worsen insomnia and other sleep disorders, especially for people with mental health issues.

Sleep disorders are linked to increased psychiatric disorders. A good night’s sleep creates a stronger emotional and mental resilience, while insomnia increases negative thoughts and emotional vulnerability.

Many people can experience sleep disorders because of a stressful situation like a pandemic. Although we all occasionally experience sleepless nights, a pandemic can cause you to worry, which leads to sleeplessness or waking up frequently at night.

Suicidal thoughts

Suicidal thought centers around planning or thinking about suicide. Suicidal thoughts increase when someone is undergoing stress, and can be brought about by the social isolation associated with a pandemic, or by the loss of a loved one, which can further aggravate depression.

Most individuals who have suicidal thoughts do not ultimately attempt it; however, some will. Individuals who have a mental health problem or family history of mental health issues might be at increased risk of suicidal thoughts. If you are beginning to have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please contact a healthcare provider immediately. They are here to help you, and can direct you to the necessary resources to help. If you or someone you know is about to commit suicide, this is an emergency, and you should call an ambulance immediately.

Lack of self-care

Self-care involves those activities you engage in to improve your mental and physical health. It also includes taking care of your daily living activities such as eating right, brushing your teeth, showering daily, and wearing clean clothes.

Social isolation might increase stress which makes you decrease your self-care. It can also impact your motivation, energy levels, and cause feelings of self-loathing. People with mental health issues might find it difficult to take care of themselves because they always feel tired, unmotivated, and are experiencing negative thoughts. Depression caused by isolation leaves you feeling drained and unable to take care of yourself.

Strain and burnout among healthcare providers

Although social isolation helps to reduce the effects of a pandemic, an increased number of patients can overwhelm hospitals and healthcare workers. This happens because there are more patients compared to health workers. This coupled with long shifts can cause burnout among healthcare workers which ultimately leads to mental health issues.

Stress at the workplace increases when health workers are presented with greater pressure and work demands than they can handle. Although work-related pressure might be unavoidable, it can be managed. The earlier you recognize the impact of this strain and possible burnout, the earlier you can contact a healthcare provider who is trained in providing support in such situations. This may be through your Human Resources or Occupational Health departments, or through your own personal healthcare provider.

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