“I think after we have overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, I think we will see a mental health pandemic,” added Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer, Director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Kreitzer said that he has seen an increase in loneliness during the pandemic and explained that it is very different from loneliness.
“They can be alone and have a deep sense of peace and well-being,” he said.
Mulvihill said human beings are meant to be social, although some are fine with loneliness.
“[People who embrace solitude] they are more likely to be able to adapt to current circumstances related to social distancing, since it is not outside the normal scope of how they live. However, for those who generally choose to be more sociable, the sudden need to be physically distant from others has led to feelings of emotional distance, loneliness and isolation, “Mulvihill said.
Others, Mulvihill said, are fighting.
“And the way to combat feelings of stress, anxiety, or loneliness is to go out and do things,” Mulvihill said.
It is something that has not been easy or possible with the requirements of social distancing and the executive order to “stay at home” when people have to adapt to an existence that they did not choose.
Dr. Kreitzer said: “They are alone, they are isolated and it is not by choice … Even if we find ways to have a social connection with people, it is not really the same when we do it through technology.”
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“The pandemic is exacerbating loneliness and is affecting people who have never experienced mental health problems before,” added Dr. Kreitzer.
Furthermore, Mulvihill said: “This is an unprecedented moment … None of us has ever been through anything like this before, so we are all trying to navigate as best we can, but we all have our spots where I need extra help.
To support loved ones, whether they are 25 or 85 years old, Mulvihill suggested simply communicating.
“Communicate frequently, not only via text message, but also via phone and video chat if possible. If you can, consider setting up a regular time to check in with them each day, or during a call, decide what time you will speak the next day, “Mulvihill said. “Having something to look forward to can help minimize feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
“Sometimes for the other person, it’s just hearing your voice,” said Dr. Kreitzer.
Mulvihill suggested: “If there is an activity that you usually do together, be creative and see if there is any way to do it now, either in person while practicing safe social distancing or via video chat. For example: used to cooking a meal weekly “Host a contest to find out who can make the most creative food while online.”
Dr. Kreitzer suggested preparing things to discuss and acknowledge what you are experiencing.
“I really reflect, I listen to you, I appreciate how difficult it is,” he said.
“Help them identify the things they can do while they are alone, and take whatever action you can to help them happen, such as ordering a book for them from Amazon and having it delivered to them, help them find one for free or low online class.” cost to acquire the interest they have, “Mulvihill said.
“Talk about the future, make plans, add activities to a ‘wish list’ for when you can be together again, or talk about a future family (or individual) vacation. While we may not know how far these are things will be, it is still important to think about the future to stay positive, “added Mulvihill. “Encourage them to keep structure in their day. Creating structure / schedule in their day can help everyday life feel more ‘normal’ and can help avoid long periods of time without purpose.”
In addition, Mulvihill suggested, “Encourage them to go outside if they can, even if they are alone on their patio, on a balcony, or just opening a window. Fresh air and sun can be very helpful in improving overall mood and decreasing feelings. of depression and anxiety. “
Dr. Kreitzer recommended connecting with others on his journey.
“It might also be helpful to ask people how they’ve dealt with something challenging in the past, so sometimes having people turn to memories can be very helpful,” Kreitzer said.
But, if you are experiencing loneliness and nothing seems to be diminishing, professionals say it is time to take the next step.
“Know that there are resources to help if someone you care about is struggling with feelings of social isolation and loneliness. Mental Health Minnesota has two services that work to address feelings of social isolation and loneliness,” said Kreitzer. Minnesota Warmline is a peer-to-peer hotline that helps people struggling with a mental health condition / feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and isolation. Our CONNECT initiative has volunteers who communicate with those who sign up to receive calls because they feel isolated during this time. “