Isolation, Stress & COVID-19

Isolation has been widely described to increase aggressiveness, stress, and drastically alter behavior in many animal species. The brain is a vital organ and it is susceptible to change under genetic and environmental influences. Social isolation acts as a stressor, and exposure to it can result in an individual showing symptoms of anxiety, depression, memory loss, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.

COVID-19 has led to a situation where more people are quarantining and self-isolating in recent times than ever before. The result is many people feeling the impacts long-term solitude can have on mental health. It’s imperative for public safety to maintain social distancing for the time being. However, it’s equally important that people take the right steps to reduce stress and stay mentally healthy during these times of distancing.

 Increased stress levels have very real negative impacts on your body. It keeps your body in a constant “flight-or-fight” response. Meaning hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released. More information on the long term negative effects these hormones have on your brain can be seen here. Stress will also result in the grinding and clenching of teeth during sleep. This damages teeth, causes pains, headaches, and can potentially lead to TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder. This is defined as pain and compromised movement in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. If these symptoms sound familiar, you can inquire about getting a night guard from your dentist, this will consistently prevent further harm from grinding. To learn more about TMJ click here

Dealing with stress isn’t easy, and it’s based much more on one’s state of mind than the things they do. There is no way to force stress out of your life, this can just as easily result in more of it. That being said, some of the best things to do for stress include:

  1. Exercise
    • The hormones and endorphins produced by some brief high-intensity exercise can lead to an increased sense of well being and a “natural high.” 
  2. Schedule time for Self Care
    • Take this time in quarantine to check in on yourself. See if you’re where you want to be, if not, what can get you moving in the right direction? Maybe start journaling your thoughts, working on hobbies, or just doing things you used to not have the time for. 
  3. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
    • Meditation is something that everyone can benefit from. Starting with a few minutes a day to center yourself and building on this. Staying present while performing tasks will also keep your mind from wandering, preventing stressful thoughts or anxieties from entering as easily. 
  4. Quarantine doesn’t mean Isolation
    • While it’s important to socially distance at this time, this doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time alone. Get in touch with friends and family, there are all types of ways to talk and interact with each other online now. This can help you feel more connected while quarantining.  
  5. Remember the 90:10 rule.
    • Life is 10% about what happens to you and 90% about how you react. One of the greatest weapons we have against stress is our ability to choose between one thought and the other. The way we react to circumstances, in turn, creates our reality, so focusing on the positive is something we should all be doing. For more insight into this topic, you can view this video.

Isolation and Quarantine where seemingly foreign ideas a few months ago and now they’ve become a reality. Adapting to the circumstances is the best way to keep moving forward during these odd days. This is why it’s important to actively care for yourself and do what you can to reduce stress. When things are neglected, they get worse, not better. Active attention and work towards the positive will help us come out of this quarantine better than when we went into it.

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