Psychologist: Isolate physically but not emotionally from others during crisis

CANTON, MASS. (WHDH) - While “fear is very contagious” as residents self-isolate to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a local psychologist said people need to stick together even as they remain apart physically.

“Remember to ask for help, we’re all connected to each other,” said Dr. Carol Garfinkle, a clinical psychologist in Canton. “If we become closer together, bond together, it will go a lot better for us than an ‘every man for himself’ moment or if we isolate ourselves completely.”

Garfinkle said people need to take care of their minds bodies and souls during a difficult time and try to look for ways to help and encourage others. There could even be an upside of spending more time with loved ones, she said.

“The bright side for people quarantined … maybe you’re playing more with kids,” Garfinkle said.

More tips from Garfinkle are below:

My main message would be to aim for physical distancing, not emotional or social distancing.

We know that emotional isolation has both physical and emotional consequences for wellbeing.

Fear is contagious: Spread Joy not anxiety!

Keeping connected is important now. If you are elderly, reach out with a call to those around you. If you are younger, consider offering to shop and deliver food to the elderly who may not have outside resources. Leave groceries on their porch or at their door and have a six-foot apart conversation with them. Catch up on calls to loved ones (for instance, if there are grandchildren, have them each take turns calling or video chatting on different days of the week as many independent or assisted living facilities or nursing homes may be on lockdown).

Put your work down and play with your family if you are quarantined with them. Create memorable moments!

Share humor with friends and family, like funny video clips.

Yes, this is a time to both show your caring to others AND to enhance self-care.

In addition to getting enough sleep, getting outside is so important especially to hike or take a run for exercise and so we do not feel so cooped up in our homes. Stretch often if not nice outside, ex. consider doing yoga at home.

Search for groups online who share your interests. There are many online pop up virtual group activities now: For instance, I have seen already virtual: candle lighting, church and temple services, meditations, singalongs, painting groups, and dance parties, etc.

Enjoy slowing down to listen to your interests and passions. Make time for fun new activities:

Our culture can make us run too fast that we miss time to replenish ourselves. for our own enjoyment like putting picture albums together or fixing things. We can engage ourselves by listening to Ted talks, putting together a new jigsaw puzzle, learning a new skill, reading, creating or listening to new music playlists, writing poetry, or coloring, for example. We can also obtain a sense of accomplishment by taking on projects we have wanted to do around the house.

Emotional distancing can happen of you inside too:

It’s easy to numb out in the face of all of this. Instead, listen to your body and your emotions so you take care of them (rather than ignore or send them away which reinforces internal loneliness) and notice your inner self talk. Be as understanding and compassionate with yourself as you would with others! Listen to anxious parts which are worried about the unknown. Let those inner voices know that you understand how they feel. Put your arms around them and comfort them. You can even put your own hand on your heart or your arms around you literally. Being quarantined may trigger memories of other times when you felt out of control or faced the unknown- if so an online therapist can help! If you can do it on your own, ask inside what anxious parts need from you (ex. deep breathing to remain more in the present moment rather than in the “What If’s”, reassurance or taking some particular action). It may help to focus on discerning between strategies your mind is suggesting that are adding anxiety and those which are helpful. Focus on what you can control – your mind is one of them! Don’t believe everything you think!

However, consider taking a news break if you are getting consumed by it.

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