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Even those who thrive on their own are likely to feel lonely while self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s because there’s a difference between choosing to have time to yourself and being forced to.
Everyone can benefit from alone time, but too much makes us crave human interaction and touch. Being told to do something can also make us want to rebel.
It’s important we remember the isolation measures are there to help us, not harm us, mental health expert David Brudö told Insider.
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As my fellow introverts are well aware, there’s a difference between loneliness and solitude. We have a much lower threshold for dopamine, so are more easily worn out by social interactions with others and take a lot longer recharge in our own space afterwards.
We love being around other people as much as introverts do, we just unwind and energize ourselves differently. That’s why everyone is likely to struggle with the enforced isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic at some point, wherever they fall on the spectrum.
David Brudö, the CEO and cofounder of mental wellbeing app Remente, told Insider that finding time for ourselves in our otherwise packed schedules is great for increasing self-awareness, creativity, and innovation. Working from home every now and again, for example, can make us more focused and productive.
But in the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, people all over the world are being forced into this life of self-isolation and being told they can’t visit their friends and family.
“In this new and unfamiliar scenario, solitude has gone from being an infrequent luxury to becoming an everyday reality, with no firm ending,” Brudö said. “Whilst you may have loved moments of solitude in the past, the current landscape might make you feel claustrophobic and anxious.”
This is because there is a fine line between solitude being healthy and potentially damaging, he said.
Being told to stay home can make us feel trapped
Even if you’ve liked having a week or so to combat your task anxiety and tick off some chores (getting rid of that bag of clothes for charity donation in your hallway, for example), you’re probably going to start craving human interaction and physical touch again, and the “love hormone” that comes with it — oxytocin.
“Research has found that oxytocin has a positive impact on emotional responses that contribute to relaxation, trust, and psychological stability,” said Brudö. “[It] has been found to reduce stress responses, including anxiety. The lack of oxytocin from touch can have detrimental effects on our wellbeing … [leading to] loneliness, anxiety, and depression.”
Another reason self-isolation can cause annoyance or upset is because alone-time is normally a self-determined luxury. The brain can interpret being instructed to stay home as a threat to our freedom, which is called “psychological reactance.”
“However, now someone is telling you that you have to do it,” Brudö said. “As humans, we do not like being told what to do and, often, if we feel our choices are being restricted, we tend to want to rebel and do the opposite.”
Remember: Restrictions aren’t there to hurt you
Reframing your mindset is key during this time of uncertainty, Brudö said. The restrictions in place aren’t there to punish you, but to save you from a very real threat.
“Acknowledge that you cannot control the current situation [but] you can control your reaction to it,” he said. “Mindfulness and goal-setting can help manage how we react to, and feel about, the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent need for self-isolation.”
Some ways of practicing daily reflection are journaling how you feel, setting goals for the day (however menial), and planning ways to be social, such as having a lunch date or a pub quiz with friends, using apps like Zoom.
Mental health helplines like Mind and Mental Health America can also be helpful if you’re feeling lonely or anxious if you need professional support, Brudö said.
“There are plenty of organizations and forums available via platforms like Facebook and Instagram, which you can join in order to feel more connected to people,” he said.
Read the original article on Insider