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The past couple of days we have seen many changes in our usual routines; a number of companies and organisations have instructed their employees to work from home, it has been recommended to stay at home especially if you have children as schools and childcare centres had to close their doors. Extra-curricular classes, lectures, work placements, gyms, social events, beauty salons, etc… all have been experiencing cancellations or are postponing to when the situation seems more clear.

What are the repercussions of these changes?

The New York Times has reported that ‘The Health Resources and Services Administration cautions that loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can increase the likelihood of depression, high blood pressure, and death from heart disease. They can also affect the immune system’s ability to fight infection — a fact that’s especially relevant during a pandemic. Studies have shown that loneliness can activate our fight-or-flight function, causing chronic inflammation and reducing the body’s ability to defend itself from viruses.’

However, it is not just physical. A lot of individuals define themselves by the things that they do and also by the encounters they are involved in. If you are staying at home, especially if you live by yourself, this may be interpreted as a loss of identity.

How do I counter these feelings of loneliness?

1. Stay positive and stay healthy.

The most important of all is to keep a positive mentality. Remember that this is only temporary and a protective measure in order to limit the number of cases needing medical attention at the same time. Stay healthy; eat well, keep up your exercise, and care for yourself.

2. Get in touch with yourself.

Life is usually very hectic, and the fact that you have to suddenly slow down may be quite challenging. However, take this as an opportunity to come in contact more with yourself and your feelings. Give yourself the time and space to understand your thoughts and reflect on the important things in your life.

3. Take up that small project that you have been postponing for a long time.

Our priorities may at times be purely functional, and something we had been planning to do for a long time tends to be pushed into the back seat of our daily life. Take this opportunity to plan and invest your time in that project you have been wanting to do but never find the right time for it.

4. Stay in contact with your loved ones and friends.

If you are staying inside with your family, take it as an oportunity to bond together and talk about the things you don’t usually have time for. You can dedicate some time to do something toghether and reconnect more. It is also important to support your loved ones from afar by giving them a call or messaging your friends to check in with them. Remember that some people may be finding this period to be extremely taxing in terms of anxiety. Offer support and reassurance to them. There are also online groups to support each other. The important thing is to stay away from groups or conversations which are too negative and make you feel even worse about the whole situation

5. If possible, try to go somewhere remote in nature

The recommendation to stay indoors is very important to avoid contagion, however if you have the possibility to go out in nature and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, take it. It is more healthy to go for a walk in the countryside then spending long hours inside. You can go by the sea, or in the countryside. There are a lot of open spaces which are not frequently visited by people.

6. Read a book, research some things of interest, watch a good movie or listen to music

Keep yourself occupied, it helps you be more positive and ruminate less over things which cause you feelings of despair and anxiety.

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.