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Has social distancing made you feel withdrawn and lonely

Have you been feeling lonely over the last four months? If so, then you are not alone! Researchers found, loneliness can cause many physical concerns as well as emotional ones. Although health officials say, physical distancing is an effective way to slow the spread of many viruses, it can also lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Statistics reveal, 28% of Canadian households are single person households, which leads to more social isolation. Both social isolation and loneliness are associated with higher risk of mortality in adults, 65 years and up. Lonely seniors are found to smoke more, drink more and neglect the need for physical activity and/or fail to live a healthy lifestyle. It was surprising to me that seniors don’t have to live alone to feel lonely. Many married couples report feeling isolated as much as those who live alone or are widowed. Chronic loneliness can affect every part of your life. Studies have long connected loneliness to a long range of health issues. It can increase your risk for health problems and a weakened immune system can eventually lead to a cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and even death! Loneliness doesn’t have to be permanent. Anyone experiencing changes in their mental or physical health due to isolation should contact a doctor. Talk to your doctor if you feel lonely, reach out to your healthcare team and they will help you create a plan. The most important thing is to reach out. Humans are social creatures and our connection to others enables us to survive and thrive. The health care systems and their adjoining communities must consider the mental health burden of social distancing and find ways to keep seniors engaged and motivated. I really missed not physically attending Church Services, so, I sent out cards to many senior members of the congregation. It helped me connect in a new and meaningful way. I was pleasantly surprised when many seniors called or sent me an email in response! I also read that individuals who are unexpectedly alone, due to death of a spouse, separation from family or friends, retirement, loss of mobility and lack of transportation are also at a bigger risk. Fear, stress and worry are normal in a crisis, some physical responses may include fatigue, headaches, and sleeplessness. To top things off, loneliness and social isolation from the pandemic are increasing public awareness. The Covid-19 has resulted in many changes, making individuals feel out of control. It is normal to feel sad, confused, worried or stressed even scared, but, it’s important for people to engage in meaningful activities. These activities help maintain your well-being and improve cognitive functions. Completing productive activities will help you live a longer life and will give you a sense of purpose. Taking care of yourself is important, so then you can take care of the people you love. Eat a well-balanced diet, get plenty of rest, exercise every day and avoid destructive behaviours, such as smoking, alcohol, and drugs.

Spend as much time outside as possible, by taking a walk or going to the park, but make sure you wear your protective mask, for both you and consideration of others. Staying active helps ward off anxiety and depression in addition to offering physical health benefits. Stay connected to family and friends through emails, phone calls, zoom and other video chats. They are great ways to stay connected to the people you care about the most.

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