Although many people in Illinois have the ability to seek out physical connections – however limited – with others during this stage of the pandemic, there are also plenty who do not have that option due to preexisting health conditions or other risk factors.
With flu cases erupting during the fall and winter months, there is still the possibility of everyone having to face another round of social isolation, especially if another stay-at-home order will soon be mandated. Already, quarantine has been detrimental to the mental health of the population. Depression, anxiety and other conditions have been skyrocketing. Dr. Reminger, a licensed clinical psychologist and psychology professor at UIS, can attest to these effects.
Dr. Reminger notes that, alongside depression and anxiety, reports of heightened substance abuse and suicidality have emerged. Isolation with abusive partners or family members, she hypothesizes, may be causing a hidden increase in intimate partner violence and child abuse. “The pandemic appears to be exacerbating problems that people were already experiencing, including economic insecurity and chronic health conditions,” she states.
Social isolation in general can aggravate physical health conditions and weaken one’s immune system. Reduced cognition and sleep disturbances may also appear, inhibiting the ability to focus and make decisions. Mental health concerns may appear or worsen in the absence of social connection, according to Dr. Reminger.
While some social isolation is unavoidable during this pandemic, people can still mitigate the negative effects to the best of their ability. Utilize online resources to stay connected with friends and family, such as texting or phone calls, email, Zoom, FaceTime, and social media. It may not be the perfect substitute for the “real thing” but bonding can still happen this way.
Also, “…stay active and participate in some form of exercise at least a few times a week,” says Dr. Reminger. “As much as possible, eat on a regular schedule and stick to foods that are healthy and nutritious. Be sure to set aside time to relax; find some activity that you can participate in every day that helps you to clear your mind of your daily worries.”
Lastly, self-evaluate to see if any problems have emerged as a result of the pandemic or social isolation. Asking for help is not weak. In fact, it is strong to own up to vulnerability and break out of one’s comfort zone in order to get better.
Resources are available on campus for physical and psychological treatment. For more information on UIS Health Services, visit https://www.uis.edu/healthservices/. For more information on the Counseling Center, visit https://www.uis.edu/counselingcenter/.
Counseling is already included in the price of tuition and fees (for students who are at least partially on-campus), so there is no added cost to talk to someone. Call (217) 206-7122 or email [email protected] to book an in-person or remote appointment. Help is available, and recovery is possible.