The Perils of Isolation

A lack of social interaction can be more detrimental to our mental state than we might expect.

Anna Parsons, Staff Writer

I am what many would consider “a social butterfly.” Being around people, getting to know them, and socializing with my friends are things I thoroughly enjoy. 

When March 13th came around and the country was ordered to stay home, away from all people except for immediate family members, I have to admit, it was extremely difficult for me as well as countless others. For someone who thrives from social interaction, isolation took a toll on my mental state. 

Now it is December, and we seem to be back in the same place we were roughly nine months ago with more frequent online classes and encouraged quarantine as cases have started to soar once more. While keeping distant and staying home unless absolutely necessary are essential to the slowing of COVID-19, recognizing how isolation can affect our demeanor is equally important. 

For someone who thrives from social interaction, isolation took a toll on my mental state. ”

During the latest stretch of remote instruction weeks, I noticed my state of mind grow abnormally negative. To say that my motivation and joy disappeared is not an understatement. The last time I remember experiencing this feeling was in March. 

It was troubling to not understand the reasoning behind my personality shift, but I have come to realize that it stemmed from my inability to socialize with my peers. 

In a recent study, about half of 18 to 24 year olds have been exposed to feelings of extreme loneliness during quarantine. Isolation tends to heavily impact mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, which have been prevalent throughout this year. A report by Mental Health America found that there was a 93% increase of anxiety screen tests and a 62% depression screen increase from January 2020 to September 2020 compared to 2019 levels.  

While my personal experience with lockdown has not led to mental illnesses, I know for many it has. I still recognize my own personality swings during the time that I’ve had to isolate this year. 

Every day I, along with my classmates, walk through this repetitive cycle of staring at a computer screen for seven hours straight while sitting in the same room of our houses. When I’m at school, however, I’m constantly surrounded by friends talking and moving about to new locations. 

However, understanding that the majority of students and teachers, too, are feeling mental exhaustion and decline can help us feel less frightened of sudden change. 

Even though the only seeming solution to discarding this terrible feeling would be returning to school, there are other ways that I have found to help my mental state for as long as normalcy is not a valid option. 

On a normal school day, students wake up, get ready, eat breakfast, drive to school, socialize, and then go to first period. On remote days, however, most (myself included) have gotten out of bed five minutes before our first class. But lately, I have started waking up around 6:50 to give myself more time to truly awaken my brain, which, when compared to rolling out of bed at 7:10, has helped a great deal.

Understanding that the majority of students and teachers, too, are feeling mental exhaustion and decline can help us feel less frightened of sudden change. ”

Also, I have started sitting at my desk rather than on a couch or bed. This small difference has kept me more alert and more productive.

I also suggest making the most of free time during the school day. Whenever there’s a free period, take some time to go outside and walk around for a bit or play fetch with the dog. A change of scenery helps lessen the feeling of boredom, and fresh air perks up the mind. 

As for social interaction, FaceTime or texting, though not ideal, will help with loneliness and negative thoughts. For some students, even participating in class will help to increase feelings of connectedness.

Since incorporating these small changes into my routine, I’ve seen a positive impact on my mental state. Though isolation and quarantine are the smartest ways to keep everyone safe, there’s no doubt that it is mentally difficult. But if we set our minds to it, we can create a positive mentality to endure this critical time.