All five of us in my family have been inside of the house for over four weeks now. One of us had a virus resulting in severe pneumonia for three weeks during that time (whether or not it was the c-virus is a mystery).
As an introvert, I’ve always dreamed of the day when I could stay inside for weeks and not see a soul. That is not all that it is chocked up to be, my fellow introvert friends. The fact is that we are officially missing other humans. What about you? How is this crisis affecting you?
God wired each of us for connection. Human connection is a basic human need. Studies show that individuals who are part of a culture with a strong community live the longest. While it is necessary that we stay away from each other during this quarantine to save lives, I’m afraid that there will be another crisis on the horizon now: the crisis of anxiety and depression resulting from the loneliness of isolation.
For about a decade, I studied cults and unsafe religious groups, their isolation tactics and their effects on the human psyche. I have had the opportunity to speak with dozens of parents who have “lost” their children to cults. Being in isolation from our loved ones during a quarantine is hard enough. Imagine being cut off from your family and friends for good (a permanent cut off). It is a permanent mental and physical isolation.
For parents and others who have lost their children and loved ones to destructive cults, the Covid-19 isolation experience is a walk in the park. This is the world they have been living in due to the cruel, mandated shunning of the cults.
Isolation is a challenge and at times, it is painful…whether it’s from a malicious intent or not. Different forms of isolation (such as mandated shunning) happen a lot with unsafe religious groups and coercive-control groups.
Retired Licensed Psychologist Bonnie Zieman notes,
“Disconnection from family and friends is one of the worst things that can happen to a human…Of course, much of the research [from social scientists and psychologists] has been about how to cope after the literal loss or death of loved ones, not the loss of loved ones still alive, still living near you – who are mandated by an organization to cut you out of their life.” (Emphasis added)Zieman, Bonnie. 2018. Published by Bonnie Zieman. Shunned: A Survival Guide. p. xii
Zieman notes that this disconnection from others causes the unpleasant primal feeling that we do not belong (ibid). This makes us feel unsafe in the world (ibid). For the parents and grandparents I have known who have lost their kids and grandkids to cults, when their quarantine is over, their isolation from their loved ones will continue. For others, they will return to their connections.
I have grown concerned during these past few weeks for the mental health of isolated individuals. While we are all trying to solve the disease dilemma by doing our part in staying home, I have pondered the risks for a crisis of anxiety, depression and loneliness. For some of individuals, they are getting a small taste of what cult isolation feels like. How are you coping mentally with this crisis? Here are three ideas to help:
- Get bright sun early in the morning. Bright, natural light resets melatonin levels and our body clocks, leading to a better mood, better sleep and more energy.
- Focus. I don’t mean on the TV or news! Instead of filling our minds with bombarding negative news coverage all day long, let’s find a healthy project and get our minds to hyper-focus on it (when we have time to do so).
- Connect. Connect with someone on the phone, virtually or from a distance. If you are quarantined with family, make some time to put down electronic devices, and connect with your family members. Spending time with our pets, time in nature and in prayer also helps ease the stress of loneliness.