Updated: May 20, 2020
Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, America was already in the depths of a public health crisis, one of social isolation and loneliness. One 2020 index notes that three in five Americans report a persistent sense of loneliness. Young people, ages 18 - 22, men and heavy social media users, were most likely to report feelings of isolation. Social isolation can generally be defined as a state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society. The psychological stress that social isolation causes can have extreme detrimental effects on a person's mental, emotional and even physical health. Now, since the Coronavirus shut downs, physical isolation is another factor.
People living in assisted living settings also feel bouts of loneliness. Even though they were able to interact with other residents (for the time, they are less able to) they still felt socially isolated. This is because they are not psychologically close to the other person, only physically close to them. But, now thanks to technology, like Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime on phones, people can be socially engaged although physically isolated.
Mental health is also affecting Gen X, people born between 1965 and 1980, sometimes referred to as the “sandwich generation” because many are caring for children and older parents at the same time. The pandemic has highlighted the responsibilities of the sandwich generation more than ever. Some have parents living in senior living situations which brings its own set of fears and worries. Others have parents who are aging in place and dealing with the isolating effects of living on their own in the COVID-19 era. Not only are they feeling lonely, but they’re often uncomfortable with the technology and delivery services available to connect them with the outside world.
Women in particular may be feeling the brunt of it. Women are the primary caregivers for elderly family members in about 70% of households. These Mothers/daughters often put their own needs aside in favor of their children and aging parents. Increasing the possibility that women in the sandwich generation will experience increased stress and anxiety. The pandemic has added new fears, restrictions, burdens and more to feel guilty about.
Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, hydrate and try to get a good night’s sleep. Try to lower your stress levels in these chaotic times. Read a book, do yoga or meditate. Take care of your aging loved ones. Ensure they have a tablet or computer to stay connected with you and the outside world. Take a break from watching the news and go out for fresh air and sunshine, daily (but stay at least six feet away from others). Once a while, take a live virtual tour to see other parts of the world, together with Discover Live.
During this month of mental health awareness, let’s all try to be a bit more enlightened and observant and help where we can.