Combating Social Isolation, Negative Thinking, and Uncertainty During the Pandemic

Combating Social Isolation, Negative Thinking, and Uncertainty During the Pandemic

All of us value certainty and the ability to control our lives. While everyday life normally poses challenges to both certainty and control, the current pandemic raises the bar. We do not know when it will end, when a vaccine will be available, and when things will go back to the normal uncertainties of life.

In this instance, it is of utmost important to recognize what we can control and what is currently out of our reach. Our response depends on acting on the former, and not harping on the latter. Controlling what we can actually involves taking some steps that we might ordinarily take during more normal times. However, they take on more meaning now.


These include:

Setting a regular schedule, and continuing activities of daily living like showering, getting dressed, eating well, and adhering to a rational sleep schedule.

It is important to prepare for the day as if we were going off to work or school rather than foregoing these things because we are going inside. It is fine to lounge around in pajamas at times you would normally do that like on weekends.

Try to fight the urge to eat badly. It is a normal human tendency to eat more and eat the “wrong” foods for us when we are feeling stressed. This is a time when food is not as plentiful or as easily accessible as usual and this makes it a good time to modify some bad eating habits.

Time can become a blur as days merge into days. Staying up late may, for some of us, be an escape, and, conversely, for others, sleeping more can ease the boredom as our activities become limited. Try to maintain a regular schedule and then “treat yourself” to something different on weekends, special occasions like birthdays, or a” whenever you need it” day.

Recognizing that feeling anxious is an acceptable response to these anxious times. Do not beat yourself up for feeling anxious. It is important, however, to avoid triggers that can set off anxiety. Limiting exposure to the media onslaught and obtaining the facts that you need from a reliable source like the CDC ( can help. It is more important than ever to offset or deflect anxiety by practicing breathing ( and, relaxation, and imagery ( because our physical body is connected to our mind and working on calming ourselves will trigger a relaxation response in our brains rather than an anxious one.

Recognizing also that becoming more irritable or angry than usual is a likely response to the current stresses and trying not to take these feelings out on significant others. Irritability and anger are the result of frustration and are likely to be heightened by being in close quarters for an extended period of time. While it is easier and may feel more satisfying in the moment to “let others have it” in your close circle, in the long run, it will only put greater stress on our relations with those we love. Exploding about dishes in the sink or clothes on the floor may be part of a general tendency to react out of proportion to the situation. It would be better to let everyone knows your expectations and how you will react if they are violated than going off on a child or spouse.

-Challenge negative thoughts that may arise by making a written or mental list to dispute each negative thought. Using our smart brains to combat unhelpful thoughts can diminish their power.

Regulate your use of substances to soothe yourself just as you would try not to eat badly. Having a glass of wine or a beer is different from binge drinking to drive away the intolerable feelings. Use the strategies cited above instead.

Build in some exercise to your day either via using online videos or taking a walk or a run outside while maintaining social distancing;

Take the time to do things at home that you never have the time to do (i.e. cleaning the basement, attic, or closet);

-Engage in a hobby or find one you never had time for;

COMBAT SOCIAL ISOLATION BY REACHING OUT TO FAMILY, FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS AND COLLEAGUES. Stay connected by creating a “call” list of those you can contact each day. Calling others who need the contact will also make you feel better about helping someone else and deflect feelings of powerlessness.

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