The Truth About Loneliness and Isolation in Quarantine

“I haven’t seen my friends in a while.”

“This whole covid thing really ruined everyone’s lives.”

 “I missed the life I used to have.”

“Every day’s just the same. It’s you and the people in your house. The friends you’ve chosen, your classmates, workmates, team mates, peers and all that, yeah you can still chat them online but actually being there with them makes a huge difference and it’s one difference that I want to feel as soon as possible.”

These are just a few examples of what the vast majority of people are thinking right now. With everything that’s happened, it’s no understatement that the recent pandemic has compromised the social lives of most people. This is obviously a very unideal situation for most human beings. Humans are socially driven by nature. Ever since the beginning of our species, we’ve lived and acted in groups. Thousands of years ago, if a human was outcast or isolated from his tribe, his chances of survival would be a lot lower. This is why we feel bad when we’re alone or unaccepted. In this sense, it is normal to experience negative emotions when we spend our time too long isolated from others, especially those that we yearn to be a part of, as our brain perceives this as us being in a situation in which our survival is not ensured much like it would have when we were alone thousands of years ago.. The need for companionship has been ingrained into us. We were always meant to laugh, play games, and communicate with each other on a consistent basis. Our brains have been wired to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to do that right now.

Prolonged social isolation can have a lot of risks to our physical, emotional and mental health. It is said to be a factor that increases risks for manifesting symptoms of various mental illnesses such as anxiety, OCD, insomnia, depression, and more. This leads people to feeling drained throughout the day even though they may not be as busy as they used to be, as well as causing bad eating habits and substance abuse resulting in digestive problems. Prolonged social isolation has also been linked to cognitive impairment, greater risk of cardiovascular disease, and a weakened immune system. Furthermore, spending an unusually long time with the same people in confined spaces promotes greater risks for conflict and domestic violence. Considering all this, we are left to wonder, “are we just doomed to suffer until this pandemic ends?”

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Not necessarily.

Nothing is purely black or white when it comes to human growth and development. In some cases, exposure to stress harms the person’s mental health. In other cases, exposure to stress pushes people into growth and pressures them to be able handle things they couldn’t have before. Just like how a person can get hit in the face and get hurt, a person can also fight back and push themselves to win the fight. The human mind and body are very adaptable. Think of how a lot of the problems that emotionally affected you when you were younger are things that you can easily deal with today. Think of any skill or cognitive related ability that you’ve improved on over time. A workout that used to drain every last bit of energy from you a year ago might be as easy as your warmup now. The academic workload that you’ve stressed about when you were younger might be a walk in the park for you now. But of course, the mind and body need to be exposed to something before it can adapt to it. You need to exercise to improve your physical strength, study to improve your intelligence, but what about mental strength and resilience? People improve that by being exposed to different experiences, and for us, this whole situation is one of those experiences.

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This by no means implies that this pandemic is a good thing in any way, nor does it excuse the people who have contributed to the prolongment of this terrible situation, as there have been numerous times where the situation went overboard, with people experiencing things that no one should ever experience. But it does make us realize that we have options within our control that we can do to turn this situation into something more favorable. With less distractions and more time on our hands, we can do things that we normally wouldn’t have been able to. We can focus on improving skills that we need to lack in and try things we’ve never tried before

Prolonged social isolation of this large of a scale is new, but the experience itself to humanity isn’t. Prisoners have often gained very strong and muscular physiques due to working out as a means of passing time while they’re isolated from the rest of the world. Even famous figures throughout history have experienced social isolation. Sir Isaac Newton was said to come up with early calculus at a time where people were afraid to get out of their homes due to the black plague. Shakespeare was said to be isolated while writing King Lear due to the rampant plague in London at that time. Edvard Munch, famous for painting “The Scream”, even caught the Spanish Flu himself and was quarantined for a long time. During this time, Munch made some of his greatest artworks.

Of course we’re not Shakespeare or Newton, but does that mean that we can’t do great things in this time? Of course not. Like them, we have the same ability to adapt, push ourselves to points we previously couldn’t imagine ourselves reaching. It’s just that a lot of times, we’ve been sort of convinced by society to underestimate ourselves .We see how most people are sad or suffering in social media and that subconsciously affects our expectations and standards for ourselves. A lot of us think that “since this person is not doing well then it’s just as normal for me to have a bad time too.” While it is true that it’s okay to rest and take a break when we’re not feeling good, it is also true that this type of mentality can hinder us from progressing and make us believe that we are less capable than we actually are. In this pandemic we are all suffering to some extent, the difference lies on individuals if they are going to let that bring them down and dictate their life or if they are going to do something about it amidst the suffering and make the most out of this newfound time to make a better future for themselves

Sources

American Psychological Association. (2020, February 1). Building your resilience. http://www.apa.org/topics/resilience

Debczak, M. (2020, March 19). 5 People Who Were Amazingly Productive In Quarantine. Mental Floss. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/620764/productive-people-in-quarantine

Mcdonald, K. (2020, March 27). How Isaac Newton Turned Isolation From the Great Plague Into a “Year of Wonders”. FEE. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from. https://fee.org/articles/how-isaac-newton-turned-isolation-from-the-great-plague-into-a-year-of-wonders/

Moore, C. (2020, December 10). Resilience Theory: What Research Articles in Psychology Teach Us (+PDF). Positive psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/resilience-theory/

Novotney, A. (2020, March). The risks of social isolation. Monitor on Psychology, 50(5). http://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation
Pietrabissa, G., & Simpson, S. G. (2020). Psychological consequences of social  isolation during COVID-19 outbreak. Frontiers in Psychology, 11: 2201.      https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02201

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