Is social distancing and quarantine affecting your mental health?
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Is social distancing and quarantine affecting your mental health?




Below is information about how social isolation in the age of Coronavirus may lead to mental illness  




Develop an understanding of the ways COVID19 social distancing, isolation, and quarantining impact mental health, and helpful strategies to protect your mental and emotional health.




The effects of COVID-19 (recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization) are ambiguous, many of which have yet to fully manifest. What we know for certain is there will be exponential ripple-effects, touching almost every aspect of our lives. Some effects are readily evident: 


  • impacts on mental health – specifically disorders impacted by social isolation such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm


  • fear around physical health, and the health of our loved ones


  • anxiety about finances, job security and the economy


  •  marriage/family stress


  • decreased social interactions and interruption of normal life routine


Some are less readily evident – how will our collective society respond to mass ambiguity and fear? 


We are all adapting to this situation as it unfolds in real-time, but the constant ambiguity and changing narratives are almost universally unsettling. Let’s dig a bit deeper into how this affects people, and then I’ll outline a powerful exercise you can implement immediately to reduce fear.  






Affects of COVID19 social distancing and quarantine on mental health


If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about people who are forced to stay home, it’s that they spend too much time in their head. When we’re going about our ‘normal’ life routines, we organically experience hundreds of daily opportunities to express ourselves, process fears, and mitigate anxiety. 


We use one part of our brain when we think, but a different part of our brain when we talk. 


We engage a completely separate part of our brain when we write, or when we listen. 


Different forms of expression, which activate different parts of the brain, are essential to fully ‘work out’ or mitigate the emotional charge carried by anxious thoughts. Subconsciously, we are constantly finding ways to express ourselves to achieve inner peace. 


As you’ve likely noticed, our ability to engage in many of these forms of expression/interaction is limited significantly when we’re confined to our homes. Thus, most people start overthinking – leading to increased fear/panic/anxiety, which leads to more overthinking. This creates a negative feedback loop, a self-fulfilling process of increased fear/anxiety.


This can lead to Anxiety disorders, Depression, and other mental illness. Further, the American Psychological Association argues that isolation increases your likelihood of death.


If isolation is inevitable, there are things you can do to lessen the impact it has on your physical, psychological, and mental/emotional health.


Set aside 10 minutes to force yourself to engage different parts of your brain to process fearful thoughts.


  • Select something you’re particularly anxious about
  • Spend 2 minutes thinking deeply about this issue.
  • Spend 2 minutes writing about this issue – just free flow, use your pen to describe what’s going on in your head.
  • Spend 2 minutes talking about this issue. You can talk out loud to yourself (a bit weird, but I won’t judge you!) or talk to another person. The goal skilled at effectively processing/talking about issues will naturally be skilled at solving issues. 
  • Spend 2 minutes being creative about this issue: write a quick haiku/song about it, draw a picture symbolizing the issue, etc. 
  • Spend 2 minutes distracting yourself from the issue, consciously choosing not to engage thoughts around that topic, to remind yourself of your deep ability to control what you let into your head, and what you keep out. 




Not only will this exercise help you feel better immediately, but you’re also practicing a skill that – once mastered – will kick in more automatically in the future. 



It is also important to maintain contact with your social network where possible, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization.



But, as a report from Michigan State University points out, one should not feel obligated to take care of anyone else during this time of social distancing and viral outbreak, as your chief responsibility is yourself and your immediate family.



Here at ALL IN, much of the work we do is with couples. Involving your spouse with this exercise is a great way to increase communication, vulnerability, and support. Communication skills can’t really be learned academically, they must be practiced. Consider embracing this time to practice talking more – and more deeply – about your fears and anxieties. 



Knowing that someone else understands your subjective reality provides a powerful increase to your own clarity of thought. Conversely, allowing someone else to invite you into their fears can normalize your feelings and help you feel more connected.  



Social contact is important to prevent mental illness, according to the recent research.



Some people find this exercise is enough to control their fear/anxiety. Others require help from a trained therapist to build the skill. If you find yourself needing more assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us here at ALL IN – we’re offering digital therapy (recently suggested by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)) during this time to ensure you can access expert care from the safety of your own home. 


Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. We publish quality material for your own education. Our publications are researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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