Loneliness: The Pandemic Inside the Pandemic

image source: nalc.gov.uk

Loneliness is a big problem, and the pandemic is making it worse. Here’s how an article on Vox puts it:

The coronavirus pandemic has created a loneliness epidemic. Social distancing, while necessary from a public health standpoint, has caused a collapse in social contact among family, friends, and entire communities — one that is particularly hard on populations already most vulnerable to isolation.

But Americans were experiencing a loneliness crisis long before anyone had heard of Covid-19. In a 2018 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 22 percent of all adults in the US — almost 60 million Americans — said they often or always felt lonely or socially isolated. The problem is even more concentrated among older adults: A major National Academies of Sciences report from February found that a little more than a third of adults over the age of 45, and 43 percent of adults over 60, felt lonely (other surveys have returned similar results).

Loneliness isn’t simply painful; it can be lethal. Several meta-analyses have found the mortality risk associated with chronic loneliness is higher than that of obesity and equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

The article goes on to interview former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Murthy’s new book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, is about this loneliness epidemic that has taken hold across much of the Western world.

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10 Things Mentally Strong People Do During a Pandemic Crisis

“Longer than an earthquake, a pandemic shakes your life and living.”
― P.S. Jagadeesh Kumar

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
— Marcus Aurelius

“Hope begins in the dark. The stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
– Anne Lamott

A mental health crisis in our country is brewing during the current pandemic. I’ve not seen many studies yet that verify this with data, but they are coming. Many people are struggling. Even before the coronavirus exploded around the world, experts were talking about a mental health crisis in our country. I use the acronym ADA to identify today’s three-headed mental-health monster: addiction, depression, and anxiety-related mental health challenges. The pandemic is making them worse.

Here are some numbers from recent reports:

  • Alcohol sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic, according to the research firm Nielsen. Online alcohol sales were up by 243% in the seven-week period ending April 18 over the same period a year ago, and brick-and-mortar alcohol sales were up by 21% for the same period. (source)
  • The most robust recent nation-wide study I’ve seen so far shows evidence of “unprecedented trauma from the pandemic.” The whole article is worth reading, but here’s a synopsis: Researchers interviewed 808 adults from 27 states. 90% of respondents had one or more “traumatic stress symptoms.” 27% met the diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To put that in context, the national estimate is normally 5.3% of the population with PTSD. In fact, for service men and women who were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s 7.6%. (source)

Just to be clear, the National Institute for Mental Health defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This ‘fight-or-flight’ response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger.”

An article in “The Hill,” a politically oriented, public policy news magazine, sums up our current situation this way:

Experts warn that the United States is ill prepared for a coming mental health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic….The problem is expected to get worse in the coming months as people begin to reckon with the emotional impacts of the pandemic, and experts say there may not be enough resources to help them.

(source)

So what can we do about all this? What can we do to protect our mental health during these hard times? I’m going to offer you a plan … 10 practices that mentally strong people do during crisis times like these.

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