When the whole world is experiencing a crisis, things can get pretty stressful. Social distancing is very important right now because it flattens the curve and slows down the Coronavirus from spreading. But if we’re not careful, social distancing can also take a toll on our mental health. We at Psych2Go want you to know that we’re here to help you cope in any way we can. So here are some ways that social distancing can strain your mental health and what to do to help yourself manage it.
The combination of social distancing and worry can take a negative toll on preexisting mental health conditions (Novotney 2019). Social distancing for a long time can bring about some of the same effects of social isolation, particularly loneliness. Loneliness is known to not only increase pre-existing depression and anxiety but can also lead to a decrease in the function of the immune system (Novotney 2019). During this time, you can avoid loneliness by remembering to digitally check-in with your family and friends. Whether you send a text, make a phone call, or start a video chat, consciously staying connected will help combat any loneliness that can come about.
In addition to loneliness, any increased stress during this time can worsen mental health conditions (Bruno 2020). This is why practicing self-care is crucial when you are more susceptible to stress. Self-care can be practiced in a number of ways such as replacing gym workouts with at-home physical activity, getting an appropriate amount of sleep, and eating well.
Although it seems trivial, the boredom caused by social distancing can also affect your mental health. Are you running out of ideas on what to do every day? Ever since the social distancing movement started, does every day feel longer than usual? The lack of sufficient engagement with your surroundings, also known as boredom, can potentially lead to irritation, which can cause stress and anxiety (Montenegro 2014). When you’ve watched all the shows that you wanted to watch on Netflix, it is easy to become bored during this time.
Taking up new hobbies is a great way to combat boredom. If you are tired of spending time in front of the TV and are looking for ideas, we suggest possibly using this time to read, write, spend time with family, create a vision board, learn a language, complete a puzzle, or learn how to sew.
3) Staying at home for an extensive period of time could increase preexisting toxicity within family relationships.
If you’re living in a toxic home environment, the social distancing movement can make relationships worse. Spending extensive time at home can increase potential toxicity within families (Durvasula 2020). For people who suffer from PTSD due to past family trauma or have experienced family-related toxicity in the past, social distancing can be extremely difficult and stressful (Durvasula 2020).
Dr. Ramani Durvasula Ph.D. suggests maintaining realistic expectations and limiting interactions with potentially narcissistic or abusive family members. She says that it is important to minimize communication and to try your best not to internalize their displays of insecurity (Durvasula 2020). We understand how difficult this can be, and we encourage you to stay in contact with and lean on your support system to help you cope with your stress.
Additionally, it’s also possible that with more time at home, there is also an increased risk of domestic violence. Remember that resources are still available, and the United States hotline number is 800-799-7283.
Finally, the uncertainty and interrupted routines can bring about stress and panic. For many, including college students and employees around the world, the sudden pandemic that requires strict social distancing can leave a looming feeling of uncertainty, such as the uncertainty of their job status, especially for those who are working to make ends meet. There are many people losing their jobs due to the pandemic, which brings even more stress when it comes to supporting the family and their future.
A break in our daily routines can undoubtedly bring about more stress. To cope with this, we suggest maintaining relationships with people you used to see often and trying to establish a new routine you can follow at home. Getting used to this might take a little bit of time, but it will help you feel more grounded and productive once you have a new routine going.
This is undoubtedly a stressful time for everyone, and we hope we were able to give you some insight on how to cope with social distancing due to the Coronavirus pandemic on mental health. What have you been doing to manage your stress?
 “Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19”. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 23 March 2020. Accessed 25 March 2020.
 Novotney, Amy. “The risks of social isolation”. American Psychological Association. May 2019; Vol. 50; No. 5. Accessed 25 March 2020.
 Bruno, Karen. “Stress and Depression”. WebMD. 12 April 2011. Accessed 25 March 2020.
 Montenegro, Robert. “Study: Being Bored Can Be as Stressful as Being Overworked”. Big Think. 5 October 2014. Accessed 25 March 2020.
 Durvasula, Ramani. “Managing Difficult and Toxic Relationships During a Pandemic ”. Psychology Today. 14 March 2020. Accessed 25 March 2020.