Preventing Isolation and Fighting off Loneliness During the COVID-19 Crisis
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We all know that the best way to fight the coronavirus is staying home and away from others. It’s essential to stop the spread of the disease and also to protect ourselves.
This is especially important for Boomers and older Canadians. Research from the CDC in the US reveals that 62% of people hospitalized with the coronavirus are in the 55-plus age group. The same age group also accounts for 89% of ICU admissions, while 80% of deaths occur among the over 65 group.
Figures are similar in Canada, with 62% of people admitted to the ICU being aged 60-plus. There is no doubt that all Canadians, especially those ages 55+ should be staying home as much as possible, but social distancing can cause other problems.
The negative effects of isolation
Loneliness during coronavirus isolation can increase the chances of depression, high blood pressure and heart disease. It can also weaken the immune system, cause inflammation and make the body less able to fight off a virus.
This has brought a real conundrum to these Canadians who know they must stay at home. But when you’re missing loved ones, how do you avoid feeling lonely and isolated?
Stay meaningfully connected
Keeping in touch with people regularly by phone is a start, but keeping in contact through video calls is a far more meaningful way of connecting. Seeing our friends and family regularly can really help prevent loneliness. There are several easy and free ways to do this:
- Facetime is a simple way to make video calls through Apple products (including an iPhone, iPad, Mac laptop or desktop computer)
- Facebook Messenger can connect people the same way, but on any device
- WhatsApp also allows video calls from any device
- Google Hangouts provides a way to video chat with up to 25 people
Except for Facetime (which comes included in Apple products), you will need to download your preferred app to get started.
If you need help setting up, click on one of the app links above to be taken to a start-up instruction page. If you’re struggling to install or use an app, ask a tech-savvy friend or relative to talk you through it over the phone.
Once connected, schedule times when you can have regular video calls with friends and family. This will go a long way to preventing you from missing your loved ones and feeling lonely during the coronavirus quarantine or isolation.
Keeping yourself busy is a good way of preventing isolation and feelings of loneliness. Use this time to catch up with chores or jobs you’ve been meaning to do.
Do your shopping from the safety of your car. Many stores now allow you to pick up your purchases without having to leave your vehicle. This allows you to safely get out of the house and feel less isolated, while also helping you stock up on supplies you may need. Check online or contact your local grocery store to see if this is available in your area.
Keep your mind busy and entertained
There are plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained online and reduce the effects of feeling isolated and lonely. Most Canadian libraries offer free access to vast online resources: you just need your library card number.
Some libraries also offer over 3,500 free online courses through Lynda. These include marketing, photography and video courses, to name just a few. You can also learn over 70 languages through Mango. Language learning has the added advantage of potentially delaying or stalling the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Staying active is essential for good mental health and preventing isolation and loneliness during COVID-19 isolation. People who exercise are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. It also promotes sleep, which is essential for maintaining good mental health and a strong immune system.
Going for a daily walk or jog is a good idea if you’re able to keep at least 6 feet away from others. If not, YouTube is a fabulous resource for online exercise routines. Go to YouTube and search “exercise routines from home no equipment”. If you have limited mobility, or want an easier workout, try searches like “seated exercise routines” or “exercise workouts for beginners”. You’ll find hundreds of videos, so you can mix it up every day (all from the comfort of your own home).
What to do if coronavirus isolation brings you down
If loneliness affects your mood while in quarantine or isolation, there are many mental health resources available, which can be accessed by phone or online.
You can look for local resources by searching for “mental health resources + your province”. For example, Big White Wall offers free online mental health support in Ontario, with no referral required. Anxiety Canada has resources to help with anxiety around COVID-19 as well as online courses providing coping strategies.
If none of this works, you should contact your doctor’s office and ask for a mental health referral. There is help available to cope with the effects of isolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 crisis. You just need to ask.