I call it Pandemic Isolation Sydrome. It’s not just about staying home. It has three components:
- Anxiety: worrying about dying. Worrying about the economy and one’s job. Worrying about people not being safe. Worrying about people not going down the grocery aisle the correct direction. Worrying about people passing me too closely on the sidewalk. Worrying about the neighbor’s dog licking me. Listening to the news and talk shows.
- Depression: Loneliness, and then self-doubt. Everyone wearing masks in public so you can’t connect on a personal level. This affects extraverts and relationship people the most. On the MBTI the ENFs are the most affected by the masks and distancing. No hugs! No handshakes. Distance. People who need physical affection and oxytocin (the hormone that is activated by skin contact). The elderly in nursing homes can only see people with masks on and seldom get touched, and then, only with a gloved hand!
- OCD: A pandemic raises OCD to an art form. Researching safety rituals, hand washing, washing the groceries, laying out delivery boxes and the mail for two days before opening. Coming up with a detailed routine for shopping: have a box of gloves in the car. Whenever leaving car put on gloves, when returning to car discard gloves in trash bag. As soon as you get home strip down and put clothes in washing machine, then shower.
- Choose two people that you can hug. Sorry, you will have to sacrifice some of your safety for this. If you can’t manage this, it’s not going to work. This is non-negotiable. You have to find 2 people to hug on a regular basis.
- Accept that we can’t control what we can’t control. Trying to control the uncontrollable is the source of most anxiety.
- Take a walk every day without a mask. Inform anyone that asks that you have medical permission to not wear a mask for your mental health. Then smile at them.
- Spend time on Zoom or Facetime with your friends. You need to see the expressions on their faces.