It’s my first day into engaging my therapy clients in telehealth sessions and I have a confession to make. I miss them terribly. I miss how it feels to sit in a room with another person and all the nonverbal magic that happens. I say this with much privilege and gratitude that I can be working and staying connected during these times. It’s just not the same.
Here we are in 2020, more connected than we’ve ever been by technology, just a few days into social distancing, and I know it’s more than just me who’s craving human interaction. Let’s pay attention to this. It’s really not surprising. We are social creatures are very nature. Our brains literally are shaped by the social relationships and experiences of our childhood. They are continuously rewired by relationships in adulthood. As a therapist, I know that loneliness and social isolation increase depression and are risk factors for other mental illnesses. We know that the right kind of connection helps and typically enhances one’s mental health. Some research has even linked loneliness to certain disease states and mortality. We are, undoubtedly, made for each other.
So what happens when we’re asked to stay 6 feet apart for the common good. Put bluntly: we don’t feel good. We long for each other. We experience painful emotional states like sadness, anger, and overwhelm. We breakdown, eat more or less, we struggle. We also forge new ways to connect, accepting that the virtual cannot replace the physical — And for now it’s what we have. Radical acceptance at its best.
It’ll be interesting to pay attention to our collective mental wellness as we move forward. We assume distancing at home is safe for all, but we can’t forget those were whom home is not safe. We cannot forget those who live alone or those without homes. How will we do, when history looks back, with caring for each other?
It’s been fascinating to see the the work arounds coming up in the last 48 hours. I’ve seen virtual happy hours, virtual recovery meetings, virtual exercise classes, virtual museum tours, and community listserves focusing on helping the elderly. It’s certainly easy to get caught up in the very real fears and stock up on our favorite foods (mine is raspberry chocolate). I challenge you to consider that it’s just as easy, once the intention is made, to tap into our urge to connect and help. For those who are finding their mental health already affected you’re not alone. You’re not abnormal, you’re just human seeking community. The community we’ve come to know and maybe take for granted at times. Maybe it’s useful to remember that we recover from this. And we will all be changed by it. We have more choice over that change than we may realize.
I’ll end by sharing what I’ve been sharing to all my clients repeatedly over this past week (virtually now): 1. Focus on what is in your control, try to let go of what isn’t. 2. Reach out to your supports in anyway you healthfully can. 3. Get some fresh air 4. Remember, we’re all in this together.