How I Cope With Isolation
August 22, 2020
If there’s one thing I know about, it’s being isolated. Life as a disabled person is unconventional. Because I can’t drive or take care of myself, I spend a lot of time indoors. I have a lot of time for introspection. I’m always trying to be a better person. Given my passion for politics, I examine the world’s problems and brainstorm ways to solve them. This is a double-edged sword. At my best, I’m a giving, empathic person that wants to change the world for the better. The downside is that if I overthink everything, I get bogged down by analysis paralysis. If you spend all of your time considering every possible factor when you’re making decisions, you get overwhelmed and don’t take action. Inaction is its own action because it has its own set of consequences. I lack the social experience of most of my peers. I also tend to look at things with the overly serious bent of someone older than I am. I have a foot in each group while fitting into neither.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens are being encouraged by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to practice social distancing. The CDC defines social distancing as ‘remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.
Isolation? Hell, your girl has been practicing “social distancing” all her life—but not by choice. I’ve spent 28 years in social isolation due to inept/lack of government support, funding, high rent costs, and limited transportation options. I will be the first to admit that it sucks. I’ve developed ways to cope with it over the years and I’d like to share them with you.
“How do you stay sane?” You try your best to stay grounded. If you go full-on crazy for a minute, you’ll work through it.
Accept your feelings – One of the best things you can do for yourself is to accept your feelings. I know what you’re thinking. Is she on some cringe-y self-help bullshit? Nope, every time I see one of those “positive vibes only” posts I want to throw myself off a bridge. As one of the greatest orators of our time once said, that’s “Not my swag.”
I ain’t Dr. Phill or Tony Robbins. I can’t stand those types of people. Donnie here can tell you how I feel about that.
I’m myself. I think of it as the pessimist’s guide to optimism. I don’t know all of the answers. As soon as someone claims to know all of the answers, you know they’re full of it. Life is full of nuance and uncertainty. Whatever you feel right now: Scared, sad, confused, stir crazy, it’s OK to feel that way. You don’t need to force your feelings. If you or anyone you know is having a rough time, reframing thoughts might help:
Stay connected – Thanks to the internet, we have a wide array of methods to stay connected with loved ones. If you can’t see your friends, give them a call. If that’s not for you, go with the instant messenger or video chat feature. It doesn’t replace physical contact, but it can be a resource. Personally, I use the Facebook video chat feature. It’s free and works like a charm. Skype is fine but is a little clunky. Reaching out to loved ones provides comfort to both of you. We’re all a little anxious and stir crazy. Some of us more than others. The key is that we’re in this together.
Take breaks – If you’re inside for an extended period of time, you might fall into the trap of spending way too much time online. The internet can be great for connecting with others, learning something new or receiving feedback for a common problem. The flip side is that there’s misinformation, vicious bickering and it’s easy to get stuck in a bubble of people who think just like you. You need to have your ideas challenged in a constructive way. Sometimes you need escapism, but not at the expense of self-improvement and involvement in the outside world. Something I do is set reminders on my phone. If you get sucked into scrolling through social media or Youtube videos, it’s easy to forget the basics and let time get away from you. I set reminders to get up from the computer and move around. That way you get some exercise during the day. Then you can do menial tasks. Clean the house, organize your desk, update your personal contacts, etc.
Do a deep dive – Do you have a subject or hobby that you’re into? Do a deep dive into it. For me, it’s music. If I want to learn about a genre or artist, I read as much as I can about it. I organize all of the info into a timeline. I love using Genius to learn about song lyrics and WhoSampled to break down a song’s composition. For you, it could be something else like the Indigenous history of Canada, the U.S. civil rights movement or a specific car you like.
Try to make good choices – It’s hard to want to eat healthy, exercise, and follow a daily routine when you’re not at your best. All that advice from your doctor and that annoying Facebook friend about eating well, exercise, etc. are on point. It’s the thing nobody wants to do. I don’t. I’d rather watch Inglorious Basterds and eat Oreos all day but in the end, not following through with good choices will make you feel worse. You’re an adult. You know this. It’s easier said than done.
Shutting down and going to sleep at night when you’re anxious is hard. The thing that works for me is having white noise going in the background. Redirect your mind away from existential dread and worries. If you start to ruminate, play this game:
Remember a place or city you’ve been to. It could be a specific area, or building, or even your home when growing up. Now try to imagine walking through it and get as many details as possible. Colors of the walls, floors, paintings, etc. I know that this sounds hookey, but it’s actually worked for me. Remembering details is a good way to get your mind tired enough to relax.
Welp, that’s it for now. I hope this guide helps you cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most importantly, stay inside. In order to stop the spread of this virus, we have to limit exposure. Listen to the CDC and don’t be like my fellow Floridians. I beg of you. Being better than Florida is a pretty low bar. You can do it.