This has been an interesting year filled with uncertainty, shifts, pivots and opportunities to evaluate how we live and do business. The universal pause from COVID-19 has caused a variety of positive and negative impacts upon our lives. One thing we have all experienced, is social distancing. If you are an introvert, you may have loved being isolated at first, however now you may be feeling the negative impacts of social distancing yourself. While extroverts have been really out of their comfort zone and missing the human interaction. However, both introverts and extroverts can still experience symptoms of loneliness and isolation.
“Lonely” is defined as being cut off from others or being without company. While for some, at first, this alone time might have felt nice, prolonged states of isolation can be detrimental to our health. According to the Journal of Aging Life Care, isolation has been linked to several health conditions such as cardiovascular, inflammatory, hormonal, sleep-related and emotional issues. It's also linked to increased risk for obesity and formation of smoking habits. When in the state of loneliness, you may want to push off taking care of yourself or reaching out to others. However, looking after your physical and mental well-being is ever so important. Neglecting to reach out and have human connection can put our bodies at risk; we need connection for our physical and mental well-being.
This break in our normal routine has given us a chance to approach life differently. Now more than ever, we need to check-in on each other, eat healthy, and maybe adjust our lifestyle to have a better work-life balance. When looking at our pre-COVID behaviors, we have an opportunity to build back better. The lifestyle we choose to live, the quality of our food choices, and how we decide to move our bodies can now build a better foundation. We can all view this pause as a chance to change our overall well-being.
Here are some simple ideas for improving your well-being and connecting to others:
1. Make an effort to talk to others more often. Simply picking up the phone or chatting online with friends, family or coworkers can make you feel less lonely. Want to feel more connected? Try FaceTime or Zoom calls so you can physically see each other and help each other combat loneliness. You could even write an email or better yet, go old school and write a letter or send a card to a friend. Who doesn’t like to get snail mail every now and then? We often overlook these easy, more obvious ways to connect. Make a point to carve out time in your schedule to connect with others each week.
2. Move more! Physical activity can be a driving force when overcoming loneliness. Not only does exercise increase mood boosting hormones like serotonin, it can also provide an opportunity to connect with others. Walk or take a bike ride safely distanced with friends or take an online exercise class simultaneously with family and friends. There are even some apps that allow you to challenge one another to workouts keeping you accountable and connected. If you do not live alone, turn up the music and dance around the house with your family or roommates. Need to feel a little more connected with yourself? Take some quiet time to stretch or practice yoga and check-in with yourself and what your body needs.
3. Focus on nourishing yourself. Wake up and eat a balanced breakfast! Having a yummy breakfast to look forward to is a great way to start the day and can even motivate you to get out of bed. Think smart when you grab your snacks and drinks for the day - when you feed your body healthy foods, you in return feel healthy too. Focusing on nourishing yourself can provide ways to connect with others as well. For instance, you may want to take an online cooking class, try new recipes with family or roommates at home, or have a virtual dinner with family and friends.
4. Give back. Sometimes we can feel helpless when stuck at home and watching all that is going on in the world on the news. Giving back, no matter how small, gives us a sense of empowerment and makes a difference. You could volunteer at a local animal shelter, start a food drive in your neighborhood for your local food pantry, or buy the coffee order for the person behind you in the drive-through line. Another idea is send a small gift to a friend to brighten their day or donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to your closest hospital.
Small changes to our routine can add up and make a big difference. See what ideas work best for you and try incorporating them regularly to improve your well-being and feel more connected.
Written by: Jenna Deaver, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern