Social distancing can have a psychological impact

NASHUA – “Stuck inside these four walls,” begins the Paul McCartney and Wings’ 1973 hit “Band of the Run,” off its album of the same name. “Stuck inside forever,” or so it may seem to some.

By now, as we enter unexplored territory, we’re all quickly learning that keeping our distance from one another is the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Many of us are working from home and staying 6 feet away from family and friends. While this may be good for our physical health, what does it do to us mentally?

Imagine having to work in opposite rooms from your significant other or house mates.

“It’s really two difference issues,” said Dr. Robert Walrath, a licensed psychologist and associate professor at Rivier University in Nashua. “People who are now working from home or isolating as a means of protecting themselves from a health perspective, have to navigate that feeling of isolation while they’re experiencing anxiety about what is happening in the outside world, and all the while have to still deal with what’s occurring in their everyday life.”

Walrath added that people who are working from home with others in the house, have a new set of issues, as they have to negotiate space to get their work done, while they might feel the need to talk about what’s happening outside because of the anxiety that they feel.

That’s the reality for many people keeping their distance during the coronavirus. Those seemingly empty spaces in addition to working from home, includes avoiding large crowds, and staying at least 6 feet apart from family and friends.

Many recognize that this temporary, but seemingly permanent, situation could impact us emotionally, especially those who already struggle with anxiety or depression

“That’s true,” Walrath said. “As we move into spring, people have been hoping to get out as a way of dealing with their feelings of depression or anxiety. But they’re now having to deal with that anticipated relief, which won’t come now and can be very trying.”

Some may struggle to stay positive and maintain strong mental health during this time, Walrath added. And while social distancing is the thing to do right now, there are ways you can still feel connected, like going for a walk, getting outside or simply connecting by ways of technology or social media.

“People are used to social media and its many platforms as a means of entertainment,” Walrath said. “Now, there will be a shift as people use it as a means of communication and a means of connecting with others as we all experience levels of concern and worry.”

While the commute from working from home is a plus, technology can offer simple ways to help approximate the experience of being with others and seeing someone’s face when you’re on a phone call can make a huge difference.

Try using Zoom, Skype or other ways of video calling, Walrath said.

“These are tools we have in our arsenal,” he said. “We’ve taken them for granted. Now they’re a necessity.”


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